Minorities do not always welcome apparently positive stereotypes of their group. At first sight, this may appear churlish. However, we show that minority group members’ theorizing on the production and operation of apparently positive stereotypes helps explain such a negative reaction. Reporting interview data (N = 30) gathered with Hungarian Roma, we differentiated several bases for a negative response to the popular stereotype of Roma as possessing a distinctive musical talent. Although participants recognized the stereotype had instrumental value in easing everyday intergroup encounters, they also reported that the stereotype reflected the majority group’s power to define Roma identity; constrained recognition of qualities that they themselves valued; limited their abilities to act on terms that were their own; and could facilitate the reproduction of more negative Roma stereotypes. Taken together, these findings imply our participants saw this apparently positive stereotype as speaking volumes about the majority’s power to define Roma identity without reference to how they themselves defined their identity. We conclude with a discussion of the analytic value of the concept of ‘misrecognition’ in explaining negative responses to a positive stereotype. We also discuss the potential for such an apparently positive stereotype to facilitate improvements in intergroup relations.
- Hungarian Roma
- positive stereotypes