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Locating ‘The Gypsy Problem'. The Roma in Italy: Stereotyping, Labelling and ‘Nomad Camps'

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Romani camps are to be found all over Italy and host around 40,000 residents. They are known as ‘nomad camps', implying that their inhabitants are vagrants who do not settle in one place. This article investigates how cultural concepts such as nomadism are employed in Italy to legitimise segregation policy. It also explores the role of space and place in the liaison between the Roma and the Italians. The focus, therefore, is not on the Roma themselves, but on how Italians interact with them and the degree to which Italian public policy and bureaucratic practice form, transform and manipulate their identity. By analysing the circularity of the relationship among stereotypes, labelling and policy, the paper deconstructs the so-called ‘problema zingari' (‘Gypsy problem'). Finally, it stresses the central role played by the camps as loci of the ‘problem', both in preserving and reinforcing the status quo and in providing a refuge for people with minimal social and legal rights.

Keywords: Anthropology of Policy; Camps; Gypsies; Italy; Roma; Spatial Segregation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2005

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