Slavic and Eurasian Studies

Queen Elizabeth II Honors UT Romani Scholar Ian Hancock with Officer of the Most Excellent Order Status

Thu, January 24, 2019
Queen Elizabeth II Honors UT Romani Scholar Ian Hancock with Officer of the Most Excellent Order Status
Prof. Emeritus Ian Hancock receiving a medal from Prince Charles

Professor Emeritus and CREEES affililate Ian Hancock was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to understanding of the Romani language, culture and history.





(From UT College of Liberal Arts News)

Romani linguist and University of Texas at Austin Professor Emeritus Ian Hancock was recently made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to understanding of creole linguistics, the Romani language and to the emancipation of Romani people.

Established in 1917 by King George V, the OBE began as a general order of merit for civilians who had served as non-combatants during the World War I; and in 1918, it was formally divided into five classes across both civil and military divisions. Today, the award recognizes great civil service and contributions to the arts, sciences and welfare organizations.

“I was very surprised to learn I had been given this honor,” said Hancock, who retired from UT’s Departments of Linguistics and English in 2018. “I think there are many others that should be honored who have made much more of a contribution to the fight for our people than I have.” 

Hancock, whose Romani name is Yanko Le Redzosko, was born in England in 1942. His mother was of Romanichal (British Roma) decent, and his father’s family, who were Romungro, had migrated from Hungary. As a child, Hancock was told to hide his “Gypsy” identity — a secret that fueled his later public endeavors to secure Romani liberty and instill pride in young Roma.

After dropping out of high school and taking work wherever he could, Hancock found himself working for an antiquarian bookseller, Luzac, that specialized in secondhand language books. It was here that Hancock discovered his gift for linguistics that would lead him to becoming the first-ever Romani to earn a Ph.D. in Britain.

While a student at the University of London, Hancock connected with the Gypsy Education Council and participated in the first World Romani Congress, where he rubbed elbows with heavy-hitters of the Romani movement. By 1978, he successfully petitioned the United Nations for inclusion of Roma in ECO-SOC/DPI/UNESCO, and then, served on the UN Praesidium for Roma for 10 years.

While at UT Austin, Hancock directed the Romani Archives and Documentation Center and published extensively on the anthropology, history and language of the Roma — most notably his book, The Pariah Syndrome (2001), which was the first to document the enslavement of Roma in Europe.

Hancock is also credited with coining the term “porrajmos” to describe the genocide of the Roma at the hand of the Nazis. In 1997, he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and served as State Commissioner on the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission for four years. And, with his most recent award from the British Empire, Hancock has been invited to join the commission in charge of building the memorial for the Roma who were murdered during the Holocaust at Lety u Písku.

“In the early 1980’s, I received a letter from Professor Ian Hancock,” wrote Lolya Bernal, the Argentine Romani leader. “Who was this man who showed me a totally different world of which I could be even prouder? There in my hands, through his letters, an entirely new world was appearing — the origin of our culture, traditions, language, the clues of our Indian origin and many other things, none of which were taught us by the gadze (non-Roma). It encouraged me to continue working on our tales, language and, later, politics in searching for our destiny.”

For more information on Hancock's work and efforts, read "What's in a Name?" in the UT College of Liberal Arts journal, Life & Letters (p. 12).


* Also see "UT Romani Scholar Honored By Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II" on UT's Texas Standard radio program, a partnership with KUT Austin, KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, KUHF in Houston and KSTX in San Antonio.


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