Examining the contributing factors in the shaping of Gypsy identity in the United Kingdom, this study evaluates both recent and historic tendencies that now misrepresent or overlook Gypsy culture.
In this book Kalwant Bhopal and Martin Myers offer an account of the formation of Gypsy identities. Providing such an account for any social group is never straightforward, but there is a still wider scope for misunderstanding when considering Gypsy culture. For although Gypsies are recognisable figures within both rural and urban landscapes, the representations that are made of them tend to reflect an imaginary idea of the Gypsy which, in general, is configured from a non-Gypsy perspective. There appears to be little knowledge of or interest in the history and culture of Gypsy communities; there is apprehension and distrust of many aspects of Gypsy lifestyles, and a long-standing sense of an uncrossable border between Gypsy and non-Gypsy culture.
The authors apply theoretical ideas about the stranger' in society to questions of the social positioning of Gypsies. In considering how otherness' is created, they examine how white' culture differentiates itself and where understandings of Gypsy identity fall within whiteness'.
Britain has embraced multiculturalism for many years now, including the expectation that outsiders' (such as immigrants and asylum-seekers) will become more accepted over time as familiarity increases. Why does this not happen for Gypsy groups? The authors' close analysis of multiculturalism reveals its various failings, showing how it reproduces many of the same misrepresentations of Gypsy culture as less liberal regimes.
Kalwant Bhopal and Martin Myers look at the often harsh realities faced by Gypsy communities in Britain and shed light on the continuing failure to allow Gypsies to be truthfully represented.
Dr Kalwant Bhopal is Reader in Education at the School of Education, University of Southampton. She has published widely in journals on issues of gender and ethnicity and is the author of Gender, Race and Patriarchy: A study of South Asian Women (Ashgate 1997). Martin Myers is a research consultant with wide experience of educational issues, particularly the education of Gypsy children.
Published June 2008; 256pp; paperback