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The rise of written literature among the Roma: a study of the role of writing in the current re-definition of Romani identity with specific reference to the Italian case

By Paola Toninato

Abstract

So far, textual hetero-representations of the Romani people (usually called `Gypsies' by the non-Roma) have focused on their foreignness and alleged `non-conformity' to the dominant order. Such depictions, conflating history and myth, art and reality, promote the perception of an unbridgeable divide between the `primitive', `illiterate' Roma and the `civilized' society. In this respect, the forging of a fictional `Gypsy' identity can be seen as an ethnic strategy aimed at endorsing harsh policies of oppression and social marginalization of the Roma.\ud The recent rise of *a Romani written literature has shown that, contrary to common belief, the Roma cannot simply be defined as people `without writing'. This thesis aims to highlight the complex features of their literature, characterized by an irreducible plurality of voices and styles which is in striking contrast with the rigid, monolithic structure of the conventional images of the 'Gypsy'.\ud The intertextual, hybrid features of Romani literature seem to suggest alternative ways of looking at Romani identity which substantially undermine the rigid binarism of ethnocentric definitions of the 'Gypsy'. More specifically, the study of Romani literature enables us to view Romani textual hetero- and auto-representations not as irreconcilable, mutually exclusive terms, but in the light of their interconnections and mutual influences. The adoption of a dynamic, intercultural approach is a crucial factor in our understanding of the complex features of Romani identity, and may ultimately contribute to a profound (and long due) reassessment of the troubled Roma/Gağe relationship

Topics: PK
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:1224

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