The psychology of antizinganism.
May 8, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Where do I find a concise explanation of what it is that people are expressing when they resort to fear/hatred of the Roma? I'm aware it's a historied phenomenon, but I'd love to read more about what specific recurring cultural triggers are involved, as well as the mindset that's behind this specific choice of discrimination, and why it's proven such resilience throughout the ages. Thanks!
posted by progosk to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The works of Prof. Ian Hancock often talk about this topic, particularly We Are the Romani People, which is a good introduction to Roma history and issues generally. Isabel Fonseca's Bury Me Standing has some on it too.

Mainly, it's fear of the Other and the natural tendency of people to want a lower caste to look down on.
posted by Etrigan at 1:53 PM on May 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Eh, it's pretty specific. Walk around some major cities in Europe and you'll be accosted by street urchins begging for money, vendors pulling scams like the dancing paper doll or the overly aggressive "friendship" bracelet; and just flat out thieves and pickpockets. What's really damning is often the perpetrators or their accomplices are children.

While all these people aren't Roma obviously, enough are that people tend to conflate Roma = gypsies = thieves and scammers, and worse child abusers who are indoctrinating their children into a life of crime. If you want a concise explanation of that fear and hatred from one specific and biased point of view, here's a Daily Mail article that covers most of the bases.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:40 PM on May 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Forgive me if I'm mistaken or if this is over-simple but isn't it racism? What I mean by that is that the things people point to are because of discrimination rather than being discriminated against because of particular triggers.
posted by Carillon at 3:40 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This isn't really that complicated. They are a racially distinct impoverished minority with a radically different lifestyle than the surrounding community. The circumstances in which an "average" person encounters them is while they are selling flowers on the street or begging or running street scam. Europe has been a place defined by people's ties to their land, and the Roma are a migratory people-- even moreso when they arrived in Europe since lack of land placed them on the economic fringe. (And the ones who are relatively well-off, have a nice house, and make a decent living are not immediately recognized as Roma).

This question is trying to look for a complex psychological explanation for something that's relatively simple-- "Why do people have prejudices against impoverished racial and cultural minorities who make their living on the economic fringes?" I mean, that's pretty consistent but despicable human behavior.
posted by deanc at 3:59 PM on May 8, 2014

I wonder as well if a general study of discrimination toward migratory peoples would be helpful. I know with the itinerant performer class, which suffered severely of abuse in the middle ages, their "otherness" was enhanced by their transience -- for obvious reasons related to community and trust.
posted by vecchio at 4:54 PM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: Reports and analysis on Roma and discrimination.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:17 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: deanc, you actually touch on some of what I'm trying to get a better grip on, like the land-tied vs migratory premise, which creates a specific fundamental set-up of difference; almost as though the success/resistance of one model of lifestyle is calling into question the validity of the other. So that paradoxically, the continued, marked emargination turns physiological or even strategic to a survival of an identity. So that there's a question of identity (framed as otherness) at the heart of it, with the Roma a case of coping strategies which end up reinforcing the emargination. The blurbs for Fonseca's book, thanks Etrigan, touch on some aspects like this, as does vecchio; maybe what I'm looking for is more of a collectively (rather than individually) psychological analysis (so sociology, I guess)?
(Thanks for plenty to read, gingerbeer.)
posted by progosk at 10:14 PM on May 8, 2014

I would suspect that part of their vilification (also Travellers in Ireland, etc) is that they've been handy anonymous scapegoats for intra-community crime historically. Someone stole from the church-box?! Well, we can't really cope with the idea that someone in our community did this, what would that say about us? It must have been a gypsy traveling through in the night, long gone now, nothing to be done. Bloody gypsies! The US equivelant would be goddam "drifters" I spose.
posted by Iteki at 10:37 PM on May 8, 2014

Doing a search for "anti-nomadism" and "anti-nomadic sentiment" might also be enlightening.
posted by dhens at 11:39 PM on May 8, 2014

Best answer: Most Roma are not nomadic. That is the stereotype, but the Roma living in canvas tent camps outside Milan or Madrid are not there out of wanderlust or nomadism, but poverty. The majority live in settlements, and some - the "nomads" - travel out from there for economic purposes (buying and selling to different markets, transitory construction or farm labor... etc) which is not the lifestyle of the peasant (Roma almost never keep farm animals, which require one to stay on the land to feed them.) They will return at the end of the work season (usually around Christmas.) You could label them "economically mobile" but that is not nomadism.

European national movements are based on land tenure. In a Marxist interpretation, the land is the basic unit of exploitation. The Nation exploits the land. The outsiders with no legal claim to land tenure - the Roma and Jews - have nothing left except to exploit those who live on the land. (Need a loan? Shoe repair? A carved wooden spoon? Wedding music?) The two peoples who were excluded from land ownership, the Roma and the Jews, are therefore denied legitimacy and equal representation.

Psychologically, I might quote an essay I just read (via Metafilter but can't find it) that said that liberals, conservatives, and libertarians are ideologies that cannot find a common language of debate. Liberals see the world as a dualism of oppressed vs. oppressor. Conservatives see it as civilization vs. barbarism. Libertarians see it as freedom vs. coercion. Roma communities have always represented "The Other" in Europe (less so in former Ottoman regions like the south Balkans, more so in Protestant regions.) To a liberal they are a symbol the oppressed, to a conservative they are a symbol of encroaching barbarianism. (Libertarians don't really exist outside of nature parks.)

I should mention that the negative image of Roma is so ingrained in some (not all) European languages that the word "Gypsy" alone is often considered pejorative. Yet many Romani people do not identify themselves by the term "Roma" and feel fully comfortable with versions of "Cigany" "Tsigan" "Yiftos" to refer to themselves, usually reserving "Roma" for those who speak the Romani language and live by the social code of Romaniya.
posted by zaelic at 1:43 AM on May 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

This isn't a direct answer to your question, but I found this recent article and thread on travellers really interesting; it's a huge piece of journalism describing a family of Irish travellers who got into stealing and selling rhino horns on the black market.
posted by Ned G at 5:37 AM on May 9, 2014

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