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30/11/2013

The origins of the spatial segregation of Roma in contemporary Italy

[Qui in Italiano]

Why do nomad camps exist? One of this blog's initial goals was to account for my 2007-2008 ethnography of nomad camps in Florence. In fact, Florence was no national exception. About 40,000 Roma were and still are estimated to be living in segregated urban camps. Back then I was interested in how those camps functioned as sites of urban marginality. Later on I began to ask how in the capitalist 'West' that form of racial segregation and urban dispossession emerged. As there was no comprehensive historical account of the genesis of nomad camps, I decided to write one myself. The article is now out, exploring the main practices, ideas, ideologies, agencies, and representations behind the making, in the mid-1960s, of the first 'halting areas for nomads' (aree sosta per nomadi). Based on archive research and oral history, and ethnographically discussing local dynamics occurring in Florence and Turin between the mid 1960s and the mid 1990s, the article's argument is that
Florence. Olmatello camp (c.a. 1995)

'sedentarisation, in the form of an initial solidarity and a later response to public disorder, and "the right to nomadism", i.e. an enigmatic device allowing the juxtaposition of Italian and foreign migrants, were the two main apparatuses [dispositifs], practical and discursive respectively, whereby the urban encapsulation of variously defined people of Romani descent was initially enacted'. (p. 277)
Turin. The just-built Germagnano camp (2004)
Previous studies on the origins of nomad camps discussed institutional racism's trajectories and how it materialized in local racist policies. Yet they overlooked precise contingent local policy and civil society actions shaping that particular socio-spatial form of racial segregation. Discussing those contingent local dynamics is what I hope I have achieved. More research needs to be done, exploring the legacies and structural forces behind segregation policies and state practices in Europe and the Global North, connecting them to similar processes in the Global South.

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