Romani Studies

Gypsies and British parliamentary language: An analysis

Romani Studies (2002), 12, (1), 1–34.

Abstract

This article examines how Gypsies and Travellers have been portrayed and discussed in debates and petitions in the British House of Commons—the more important of the two Houses of Parliament—between the 1988–89 and 2001. It finds persistent themes of criticism and vilification, applied in blanket fashion, condemning just about all Gypsies and Travellers as dishonest, criminal, dirty. Gypsies are rarely discussed within the House but, when they are, they are almost always portrayed in a negative light. Labour, Conservative and Ulster Unionist have all categorised Gypsies and Travellers this way. Quotations are extracted from debates and the stereotypical images that emerge have been sorted and examined. Throughout history, the image of the Gypsy has been dichotomised between the romantic, mysterious figure imbued with psychic power, on the one hand, and the thieving, scavenging, dirty brigand, on the other. In Parliament, both images have been present, with the former being portrayed as the 'real' Gypsy and the latter the 'fake'. The very distinction between 'real' and 'fake' is challenged but, in any case, it is the latter that has been far more prominent in British Parliamentary debate.

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Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger. An analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. An analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo Purity and Danger Google Scholar

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Grant, Wyn. 1990. Insider and outsider pressure groups. Social Studies Review 5(3): 107–11. Insider and outsider pressure groups Social Studies Review 5 107 11 Google Scholar

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Hawes, Derek and Perez, Barbara. 1995. The Gypsy and the state: The ethnic cleansing of British society. Bristol: SAUS Publications. The Gypsy and the state: The ethnic cleansing of British society Google Scholar

Kenrick, Donald and Bakewell, Sian. 1990. On the verge: The Gypsies of England. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press. On the verge: The Gypsies of England Google Scholar

Liégeois, Jean-Pierre. 1994. Roma, Gypsies, Travellers. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Roma, Gypsies, Travellers Google Scholar

McVeigh, Robbie. 1997. Theorising sedentarism: The roots of anti-nomadism. In Gypsy Politics and Traveller Identity. Thomas Acton, ed. Pp. 7–25. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press. Google Scholar

Mayall, David. 1995. English Gypsies and state policies. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press. English Gypsies and state policies Google Scholar

Miller, Carol. 1975. American Rom and the ideology of defilement. In Gypsies, Tinkers and other Travellers. Farnham Rehfisch, ed. Pp. 41–54. London: Academic Press. Google Scholar

Morris, Rachel. 2000. Gypsies, Travellers and the media: Press regulation and racism in the UK. Communications Law 5(6): 213–19. Gypsies, Travellers and the media: Press regulation and racism in the UK Communications Law 5 213 19 Google Scholar

Okely, Judith. 1975. Gypsies travelling in Southern England. In Gypsies, Tinkers and Other Travellers. Farnham Rehfisch, ed. Pp. 55–83. London: Academic Press. Google Scholar

Shuiéar, Sinéad ní. 1997. Why do Gaujos hate Gypsies so much, anyway? A case study. In Gypsy politics and Traveller indentity. Thomas Acton, ed. Pp. 26–53. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press. Google Scholar

Sibley, David. 1981. Outsiders in urban society. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Outsiders in urban society Google Scholar

Strauss, Daniel. 1998. Anti-Gypsyism in German society and literature. In Gypsies in German-speaking society and literature. Susan Tebbut, ed. Pp. 81–90. Oxford: Berghahn Books. Google Scholar

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Author details

Turner, Royce