STUDYING RACIALISATION OF ROMANIES RELATIONALLY: EXAMPLE FROM BRAZIL, A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE 2022 ANNUAL MEETING OF THE GYPSY LORE SOCIETY AND CONFERENCE ON ROMANI STUDIES
On 28 October 2022, Martin Fotta presented a paper at a panel entitled “Romani People as Object and Subject of Scientific Inquiry: Scientification of Roma or Romanization of Science?”, which was convened by Victoria Shmidt and chaired by Plamena Stoyanova. The panel took place during the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society and Conference on Romani Studies, which was held at the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade.
Studying Racialisation of Romanies Relationally: Example from Brazil, a presentation by Martin Fotta
In scholarship, different racialised communities have been traditionally approached in isolation from each other, and only in relation to whiteness and through white/non-white boundaries. Similarly, the social position and characteristics attributed to Romani people have been analysed primarily in relation to non-Roma and, especially in Europe, as a specific example of minoritisation. In this paper, I argue that when the focus of research shifts to exploring Romani experiences in Latin America and the Atlantic (Fotta & Sabino-Salazar 2021), the limits of such an approach become particularly salient: since race-based exploitation and control did not develop from a unitary regime of racialisation, the formation of different subalternised groups, including Romanies, has to be analysed in relation to each other. Furthermore, the emergence of different ethno-racial categories must be understood as co-produced and co-constitutive (Molina et al. 2019). I illustrate this with an example from the early twentieth-century Brazil, when Ciganos (Romanies) first became associated with the spread of trachoma. Normally one would remain within Romani studies and compare these processes to analogous ones occurring in Europe during the same period (Shmidt 2019) or to views of Romanies at other places and times (e.g., scapegoating, association with filth, etc.). I argue, however, for the need to read across race-based subdisciplines and problematisations, which tend to pre-constitute groups and group-based conceptualisations. I suggest that studying the association between trachoma and Ciganos in Brazil requires bringing together insights from Romani studies, the history of migration (i.e., white settlers from Europe) and the birth of race science in Brazil (i.e., Afro-Brazilians).