Accepted Paper:

The discomfort of portraying Roma childhood and parenthood: the politics, the ambiguities and the ethics of representations  

Author:

Alice Sophie Sarcinelli (Université de Liège)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the dilemmas embedded within the ethnographical encounter and the politics of representations of Roma children and parenthood in Italy. Because of strong stigmatization, families showed a pronounced mistrust versus everything that would be written about them. The act of representation entails serious political and ethical dilemmas because of the infiltration of illegal factions into many urban Roma communities.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses the political, ethical and epistemological dilemmas embedded within the ethnographical encounter and the politics of representations of "mined fieldwork", taking as example my PhD thesis about public policies, parental strategies and the subjective experience of Roma children in Italy.

Because of strong condemnation of Roma child-rearing practices, conducting research about Roma childhood and parenthood was not an easy task. As a member of the majority population, families expected me to implicitly accuse them of being "bad children" and "bad parents" and showed a pronounced mistrust versus everything that would be written about them. Representing Roma families entails serious political and ethical dilemmas because of the infiltration of illegal and criminal factions into many urban Roma communities. To disclose much of their lives might have very negative political consequences on the ensemble of these minorities, already strongly stigmatized. The urgency to cope with these dilemmas are strengthened by my civic responsibilities as an anthropologist "at home" and by the claims of the NGO funding the research (Doctors of the world), that is in immediate need of acquiring practical tools and to have some practical responses to their own dilemmas as humanitarian actors.

This communication aims at discussing the moral, political and epistemological consequences of researching in a "mined fieldwork". Ethnographical discomfort will be used as an heuristic tool to analyze the act of researching as an historical scene that inform us on the possibility to produce an anthropological knowledge. I will carry on simultaneously a reflexive and political analysis of the activities of observing and writing.

Panel W092
Anthropological writing in a time of uncertainty: career, control and creativity