Doing research together: counter-narratives of the "Roma World" in Italy
(University of Parma)
Paper short abstract:
This paper describes a case of peer research conducted together with Roma people in Italy and shows how this integrated ethnographic methodology enabled Roma participants to combat stereotypes and misperceptions by speaking for and representing themselves.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws on collaborative research regarding representations of the Roma world conducted as part of the European project "Justice", which was focused on promoting Roma leadership and combating stereotypes through intercultural processes for improving knowledge about and perceptions of Roma communities in Italy, Spain and Romania. I focus on the Italian case and methodology in particular. Roma participating in courses to become activists and communicators expressed the desire to cease being objects of investigation and instead speak for themselves and be heard; they thus enthusiastically agreed to become researchers. This transformed the original project into an example of peer research: thanks to this integrated ethnographic methodology calling for the active participation of the social actors involved, I was able to co-create research results as well as cognitive methods and tools together with my interlocutors. This paper highlights the potentialities of the peer research approach and shows how Roma actors were able to use it to achieve their desire to increase their own agency and act as protagonists in representing themselves, thereby regaining possession of a discursive horizon too long denied them. Through practices of backtalk, Roma researchers even challenged the interpretations and methods used by anthropologists, thus giving rise to a counter-narrative of the Roma world. The life stories the Roma researchers collected and assembled into a small Archive of Roma Memory reveal the importance of autobiography as a political tool for deconstructing stereotypes and publicly renegotiating their belonging to pave the way for new processes of inclusion.
The praxis of collaborative ethnography: knowledge production with social movements