England or Uruguay? The persistence of place and the myth of the placeless Gypsy

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Abstract:

The Roma are often depicted as not only not having a place, but not caring about place. I refer to this common association as the ‘myth of the placeless Gypsy’. There is a need to challenge the myth of the placeless Gypsy as these types of representations further stigmatise the Roma community. To accomplish this I examine the geographies underpinning the Romani Studies discourse in order to see how the Roma's relationship to place is constructed. In this article, I examine four ethnographies about the Roma to highlight how academic representations help to further reinforce the idea that Roma are placeless. I find that even in in-depth studies, authors simultaneously reproduce and deny the myth of the placeless Gypsy. Despite explicit pronouncements that Roma are placeless, these authors in their detailed discussions of Roma practices actually emphasise the importance of place. In order to account for this incongruity, it is crucial to understand how place is being conceptualised, as limited, essentialist definitions of place typically make it easier to render Roma placeless.

Keywords: Europe; Gypsies and Travellers; Roma; nomadism; place; placelessness

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2009.00910.x

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Economics and Philosophy, College of Staten Island-CUNY, Staten Island, NY 10314, USA, Email: kabachnik@mail.csi.cuny.edu

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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