Romani Studies

Bringing hybridity to heterogeneity in Romani Studies

Romani Studies (2009), 19, (2), 147–168.

Abstract

A frequent criticism of the media and the public's approach to Roma minorities is that they are portrayed in homogenising terms. Academics from Romani Studies have sought to highlight the heterogeneity of Roma minorities, describing them as a diaspora forming "a mosaic of small diverse groups" (Liégeois 1986: 49–50). This article questions whether this approach is effective enough to break away from homogenising terms, focusing on an ongoing debate between anthropologist Michael Stewart and sociologists János Ladányi and Iván Szelényi. Both parties highlight heterogeneity as a fundamental aspect of Roma people (Stewart 1997; Ladányi and Szelényi 2006). Their dispute lies in whether to approach Roma as a predominantly cultural group (Stewart) or economically deprived group (Ladányi and Szelényi). Despite their different approaches, I show how both parties can still slip into talk about "the Gypsies" or "the Roma" as "a" different group of people. I argue that in order effectively to move away from homogenising terms, it is useful to use some of the theorising on ethnicity and difference offered by certain authors from British Cultural Studies (BCS), in particular Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy.

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Tremlett, Annabel