Michael Stewart: ‘The Gypsy Menace’

Stewart, Michael. ‘The Gypsy Menace’; Populism and the New Anti-Gypsy Politics. London: Hurst & Company, 2012.

Across Europe, Roma and Gypsies are suffering increasing intolerance and hostility. A new populist politics, that seeks political meaning in collective experiences and values forms of solidarity rooted in town, class, community or nation, finds in the Roma a suitable target population to which ordinary citizens fears and frustrations can be attached. This politics draws on a rising tide of xenophobia; a feeling of loss of sovereignity and democratic oversight; disillusionment with political elites; frustrations with the failure of welfare programmes; the presentation of social and political conflicts as cultural issues; and a growing rejection of the ideal of a trans-national European order. The Gypsy Menace’s fifteen chapters range geographically from Belfast to Sofia, via Paris, Rome, Prague and Budapest. They show how, in their reactions to the presence of ten million or so Romany persons in their midst, some Europeans are testing the limits of the social imaginary and beginning to flesh out new ways of thinking about the ties that bind and connect citizens in Europe and those that can be severed. The authors, who include political scientists, sociologists and anthropologists from across the continent, set the rapid shifts in political debate regarding Roma against the background of huge social and economic changes in the past thirty years, the recent, frightening resurgence of populist politics, and a noticeable increase in inter-ethnic violence and hate crimes. This book resets the agenda for thinking about Europe’s largest minority, analysing not only the challenges a liberal, tolerant politics confronts but also suggesting ways of acting against the new xenophobia.

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