The Romani ‘camp-dwellers’ in Rome
Between state control and ‘collective-identity closure’
in The politics of identity
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In Italy, Romani peoples have been subjected to social exclusion and marginalisation for centuries. Policy responses have been based on meeting the needs of a ‘nomadic’ population. Over the years, permanent ghettos evolved, characterised by institutional abandonment, neglect and extreme decay. This chapter will pay attention to the realities of these establishments from the perspective of the Romanies. It will examine how Romani ‘camp-dwellers’ managed to exercise what remained to them of their free agency. In this context, the camp is not just an exogenous institutional means of control and segregation but also an endogenous tool of ‘resistance’ to government exclusionary efforts. This study argues that the camp should also be seen as the outcome of an explicit strategy. This was prompted partly by the ‘camps policy’ and the tendency to categorise all Romani peoples as ‘nomads’. But it was also produced by the Romanies themselves who have internalised the external logic and used it as a way of defending their status quo. While perceiving mainstream society as a threatening environment, the ‘camp’ became a powerful weapon to protect the in-group (us) against the out-group (them) heightening what I call ‘collective identity-closure’.

The politics of identity

Place, space and discourse

Editors: Christine Agius and Dean Keep

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