The ‘Blonde Angel' and the ‘Gypsy Childsnatcher': Racialisation of Romani Family Relations in the British Press

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:51
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ashli MULLEN, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
The ‘Gypsy Childsnatcher’ scandals of 2013, in which three Romani children were illegitimately taken from their families in Greece and Ireland, provoked extraordinary levels of international media attention. This paper will explore this case as a specific episode in the racialisation of familial relations. These relations were racialised in two senses: the basis of the removal of the children was founded upon assumptions of a seeming incongruity between their pale skin and blonde hair and their ‘darker’ parents, and the explanations offered for their alleged abduction by way of motivation were centred around imagined social relations of exploitation (as begging or stealing 'tools'). The contemporary valorisation of the historically constant ‘Gypsy Childsnatcher’ trope demands greater attention, in line with the need to destabilise the consistency of the ‘conceptual Gypsy’ over time to reveal the differential functions of its deployment (Selling, 2015). Based upon exhaustive qualitative empirical analysis of 339 UK newspaper articles and informed by an intersectional framework which seeks to reveal the relationality of particular representations (Anthias,1998), this paper will explore the manner in which the construction and reproduction of these highly racialised stereotypes were also reliant upon classed and gendered discursive repertoires. I will argue that as Romani people in Britain are discursively constituted as an underclass, insofar as the stereotypical representations produced draw upon the same language, discursive strategies, imagery, and modes of articulation, the historical Gypsy Childsnatcher trope is imbued with its contemporary resonance due to the connection forged between Roma and the politics of welfare at the level of the British national imaginary. In keeping with the theoretical contention that the ‘Conceptual Gypsy’ is borne of images and myths (Selling, 2015), this presentation will be punctuated by a series of images that proved to be definitive at particular junctures of the case.