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27/03/2014

For a reflexive sociology of "nomadness"

When back in the early 1990s Loic Wacquant and Pierre Bourdieu chatted about the nature of Sociology, they digged out - and discussed at lenght - probably the most distinctive feature of social science, namely reflexivity. The dialogue resulted in a volume entitled An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (1992). One of the main points of the book is also one of the main epistemological assumptions of Wacquant's entire research entreprise, namely that categories of analysis (scholars' tools) should be different from categories of practice (everyday, policy and media idiom). This distinction is fundamental for social scientists, according to the two French scholars.

Giovanni Picker Giovanni Picker Picker Giovanni GiovanniPicker
Ernst Lubitsch's movie 'Gypsy blood' (1921)
Inspired by this distinction, which I totally endorse, I recently co-authored an article in Identities with a brilliant political philosopher and sociologist, Dr. Roccheggiani. The article is an ethnographic-genealogical exploration into the genesis and development of authoritative ideas, policy, and practices addressing Roma/"Gypsies" in Italy. In the article we coin the concept of "nomadness" in order to describe the a-historical and quasi-mythical representation of Romani nomadism that is widespread among experts and policy makers. While nomadism is a socio-economic phenomenon historically dependent on labour market fluctuations, nomadness is an essentialising representation of that phenomenon that largely functions as a vector of stigmatization and ultimately exclusion. We then discuss how nomadness is one of the major reasons why many Romani families face enormous material constrains in contemporary Italian urban peripheries.

Nomadness is a category of analysis that I hope will be debated in further studies on the construction of (Romani) otherness across Europe and beyond. We are deeply convinced that adopting this theoretical tool will allow researchers to see the socio-economic repercussions of powerful and deep-rooted representations previously either underestimated or overlooked. We call for a reflexive sociology of "nomadness". I'm happy to share the article via email.

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