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Eve Rosenhaft and Tamara West new project on “German Gypsy Invasion”

Eve Rosenhaft and Tamara West new project on “German Gypsy Invasion”

BESTROM team is very happy to announce that our colleagues Eve Rosenhaft and Tamara West have been awarded a join grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. They will carry on an investigation into the “German Gypsy Invasion” for three years, in collaboration with Dr Felix Brahm (University of Bielefeld). We attach below a short description of the project and wish Eve and Tamara every success in this endeavor.

The project explores the migration of Romani (‘Gypsy’) groups between Germany and Britain between the 1880s and 1914. It studies and makes visible, through digital humanities methods, these widely overlooked migratory movements in a transnational perspective. It examines how the migratory space was structured through economic agency and individual action, media representation and public responses in detail, drawing on research in German, British, Polish and Dutch archives and on the extensive press coverage of the period. 

Two journeys of Romani Germans to Britain, and their subsequent deportations, in 1904-05 and 1906, will receive particular attention. The project mines the extensive body of text and images that the migratory movements generated to illuminate the agency of the Romani travellers themselves, their reasons for moving from Germany and their strategies for survival in Britain. The parallel aim of the project is to situate Romani migration between Germany and Britain in wider developments in regional, national and transnational policing. The Romani travellers were subject to police harassment and control wherever they went. In this period there was an intensified public and official discussion about the ‘Gypsy problem’ all over Europe, associated with increased police pressure on Romani and Traveller households. In practice, this was mainly exercised through the discriminatory application of controls on informal business activities, itinerant trades and associated lifestyles. But in continental Europe the police also developed forms of identity documentation, racial profiling and record-keeping that targeted Romani groups, often in collaboration with a new generation of race scientists. This project uses the lens of specific Romani migrations to explore the ways in which the practices and experiences of local police in both countries informed the national policing of ‘Gypsies’. It also asks how police attitudes and practices in Britain and Germany developed in relation to one another. Both practised racialised policing in their colonies, and the project treats the realm of Romani migration between them as a transimperial space of knowledge exchange. At the same time, the overlap between the policing of ‘Gypsies’ as a group and the policing of itinerant trades and informal economies is significant, given that high industrialism and urbanisation were re-setting the boundaries between formal and informal. In exploring not only the racial but the economic dimensions of the policing of Romani mobility, situating the Romani migrants themselves as economic actors, the project contributes to mainstreaming Romani history in Europe’s wider story.

The project involves collaboration with German and British Romani and Traveller communities. A key element in terms both of methods and outputs will be the development of an interactive digital map.

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