Roma as locals? Belonging, gypsyness, and the politics of space in an Eastern Slovak village
Based on long-term ethnographic research in one eastern Slovak village, this paper explores the complex issue of the role of place in the (self-)identification of Roma. Applying both a diachronic and a synchronic perspective, the author focuses on the mechanisms of the territorialisation of the Roma that led to the preservation of the historical continuity of the Romani settlement and to its territorial stigmatisation. He shows how local identification and position in the residential structure of the village studied here translated into a more enduring differentiation among Roma themselves. The author argues that crucial to understanding this process is the racialised category of 'Gypsyness', through which the Roma were singled out as 'less local'. 'Gypsyness' was also strongly associated with the space of the settlement and at the same time served as a generally accepted reason for its very existence. By setting up their own strategy of social mobility and striving to achieve full-fledged local belonging, the Roma, to a large extent, subscribed to the dominant logic of 'Gypsyness' and thus reproduced it, but they also transformed some of its characteristics, integrating it into their own understanding of their sociability in an environment of historically rooted non-Romani dominance.
Sociologický časopis, redakce, Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Jilská 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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