Unsuccessful Pro-Roma Political Mobilisation: A Relational Explanation of the Opposition to the Roma Segregation in Rome

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Gaja MAESTRI, Durham University, United Kingdom
In Italy several thousand Roma live in segregated camps set up by local municipalities. This situation is especially harsh in Rome, where from the beginning of the 1990s the local administration has created camps in which, as of today, more than 6,000 Roma live. Despite during these years several associations have repeatedly criticised these camps for constituting a form of ethnic segregation and discrimination, this policy has persisted and pro-Roma mobilisations fell short of achieving their goal of closing down these camps. Studies on the persistence of the Roma camps in Rome, as well as scholarship on imposed residential segregation, tend to focus separately either on top-down production and legitimation of segregating policies or on bottom-up forms of resistance. Yet, these two levels of analysis are rarely investigated relationally, hence failing to fully account for the reasons of unsuccessful pro-Roma mobilisations against the camps.

In order to overcome these limitations, this presentation proposes to adopt a relational perspective on mobilisation. Drawing on a series of interviews with members of pro-Roma associations and social movements, as well as with institutional actors, the paper aims to illustrate the mechanisms through which the policy of the Roma camps and the reactions of policymakers and politicians have worked as constraints to mobilisation and subsequent policy change. More precisely, the paper focuses on three main types of constraints: the ambiguous legal status of the camps, the involvement of third sector sub-contractors in the camps management, and the adoption of schemes for the political participation of camp residents to policy decision-making. I argue that adopting this relational approach fruitfully contributes to the explanation of the current failure of political mobilisations against the camps as well as to a deeper understanding of the recent strategies put in place by movements to overcome these obstacles.