Nora Tyeklar

Research Affiliate (Resident)

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Nora Tyeklar is currently a Research Affiliate at Central European University’s Center for Policy Studies and a PhD candidate in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). With the support of a Wenner Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and two Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships, she recently completed almost two years of fieldwork in northeastern Hungary.

After years of volunteering as a language tutor with immigrant and refugee communities in the U.S., Nora became interested in the processes of resettlement and its implications not only on language acquisition for refugees, but the stresses involved in entering, navigating, and belonging to resettlement communities for both refugees and service providers. She received her Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass). UMass’s Applied Linguistics program specializes in the preparation of English as a Second Language (ESL), foreign language, and bilingual teachers. She gained much of her ESL teaching experience at voluntary agencies providing resettlement assistance to refugees arriving in the Boston area from countries such as Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Bhutan. Additionally at UMass, she learned critical discourse analysis and conducted research using these methods. Nora presented her research findings at two conferences in 2013, one held by the American Association for Applied Linguistics and the other by the American Hungarian Educator’s Association. One of these papers was published by Multilingual Matters in late 2015 as part of a peer-reviewed volume entitled Refugee Resettlement: Language, Policies, Pedagogies.

Nora’s training in the anthropology doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin includes courses focusing on race, ethnicity, and ethnographic writing as well as semiotic, ethnopoetic, and conversation analysis. It is through her knowledge of critical race theory that Nora is better able to analyze the social and embodied consequences resulting from the racialization of certain bodies, spaces, and ways of speaking. As well, her ample preparation in ethnographic writing has been essential to developing her attunement to the spaces she encountered at her field sites. Her study and application of semiotic an ethnopoetic analysis enables her to conduct close analyses of situated, verbal interactions.

In addition to her educational background in linguistics, anthropology, and the research Nora has conducted thus far, she is fluent in English and Hungarian. While at UT Austin, she began learning the Vlax Romani language from Professor Ian Hancock. Moreover, it is her own personal experiences with immigration and language acquisition and language loss that motivate her interest in the poetics of displacement.

In her own work, Nora considers it important that together with her research she is involved in community engagement or activism alongside Roma. She has been assisting the Canadian Romani Alliance (CRA), an advocacy and public education organization representing the Romani diaspora in Canada, in their work since before she began fieldwork. The CRA has been working tirelessly to get redress for Roma seeking asylum in Canada who had been (mis)represented by negligent lawyers. She continues to do that work to this day. Since 2017, she has been working as an English teacher at a high school in Hungary attended almost entirely by underprivileged students.

Her dissertation, tentatively titled Performing Displacement in Illiberal Hungary: Everyday Metapragmatics of Narrative by Members of Roma Communities, is based on almost two years of fieldwork in northeastern Hungary and it ethnographically depicts the poetics of Roma displacement, focusing especially on the period since the recent rise of populist politics. Through an attention to narratives of displacement, it describes perceptions and relations of geographic mobility, activist politics, and segregated schooling in an area of Hungary with a large Roma population and a high rate of poverty. It focuses on narratives performed by speakers concerning several types of displacement including those that are event-based and spatially conceptualized; those based in collective political agency; and the identity-based displacements at a segregated high school. These findings introduce new perspectives into debates about violence, displacement, and Romani identity in post-socialist Hungary and elsewhere. She contends that a spatial configuration of displacement obscures the ways in which people are limited in their mobility and how they might feel displaced without having moved even though it is such spatial configurations that index these very non-spatial, unmoving configurations. Far from including Roma as full citizens with distinct rights, national and local policies that promise minimal social services disavow the possibility for political and economic advancement while fostering a cruel pessimism and the acceptance of the impossible within the spheres of collective activist politics, educational achievement, and community solidarity and autonomy. It is from the intersection of these spheres that her ethnography of speaking describes the everyday narrative practices through which members of various Roma communities perform emergent contradictions via indexical orders, style shifting, and stance-taking. Hungarian illiberal governance leaves largely ineffective, state-sanctioned channels that make it difficult to voice dissent in the interest of Roma rights. But, through a radical practice of listening Nora’s research points to constructive possibilities. That is, it shows that the ways speakers who have experienced some type of displacement tell their narratives is dependent on relations between speaker and audience, but through a complex co-construction based in histories, cultural epistemologies, and discourses that may not necessarily be shared.

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