Participation as Inclusion and Exclusion: Policing the Boundaries of “Citizenship” in Roma Health Mediation

Charlotte Kühlbrandt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Participatory health interventions have long been advocated as an approach to help marginalised community members exercise their rights as citizens, including access to health care. More than two decades ago, the Roma health mediation programme was established in Romania as a participatory community health intervention. Mediators are employed specifically to act as intermediaries between ‘Roma patients’ and local authorities or health professionals, with the overall aim to increase trust and improve access to health care. Based on data gathered during a year of ethnographic fieldwork with Roma health mediators in Romania, including participant observation and interviews, this article analyses the social processes by which participatory approaches produce both social inclusion and exclusion. It illustrates how mediators exceeded their remit of health and attempted to discipline communities into forms of neoliberal citizenship. Mediators reframed access to health care not as a right that community members already have, but as a benefit that must be individually ‘earned’ through the fulfilment of neoliberal citizenship. The article argues that far from being an ‘empowering tool’, community participation can extend the power of governing institutions and thereby may in fact contribute to the maintenance of a political status quo that perpetuates the precarisation of marginalised communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-443
Number of pages14
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • access to health care
  • neoliberal citizenship
  • participation as social exclusion
  • Roma health mediation
  • Roma inclusion


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