Accepted Paper:

Cultural fundamentalism and the political imagination: the case of 'Roma'/'Gypsies'/'nomads' in Florence, Italy (1988-2007)  


Giovanni Picker (Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

An analysis of the politics of the categories 'Roma/Gypsies/nomads' helps to shed light on the epistemic assumptions behind the specific pattern of housing segregation for Roma in Florence. In relation to "cultural fundamentalism", the crystallization of Rom as a group is discussed.

Paper long abstract:


This paper is a socio-historical analysis of the politics of the categories 'Roma'/'Gypsies'/'nomads' in the city of Florence (Italy) over the last 20 years. Since the end of the 80s, people coming from Yugoslavia were forced to live in camps (campi nomadi) which have constantly been the sites where ethnicity has been 'working'. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork in 2007, the paper examines the ways in which the dialectic between the politics of categories from above (official texts, discursive practices and decision making processes of the local council) and from below (narratives, practices and strategies of a local Roma organization and of its single members), has made possible, in particular historical circumstances in the public discourse, a certain notion of 'Roma'/'Gypsies'/'nomads' take shape. It is argued that the ground on which this dialectic has been taking place is not a political one, or a socio-economic one, but it has the ultimate reference in what Verena Stolcke (1995) calls "cultural fundamentalism". Furthermore, the relations between the accent on the cultural(ist) dimension and the negotiation of membership and belonging to the urban polity by a Roma organization are discussed. The conclusions are an attempt to develop a critical framework of analysis which actualizes Stolcke's thesis thirteen years later, in order to study the nowadays Romani social life in southern Italy.

Panel W116
Beyond identity: new directions in the anthropology of Roma/Gypsy groups