Gypsies, mobility and sedentary lives
This paper explores historical representations of Gypsies in the UK and mobility. It specifically discusses how stereotypes of dirtiness, criminality and vagrancy have been a consistent feature of accounts of Gypsy lives since the Middle Ages. Such narratives have been repeatedly invoked in UK policy making that impacts on Gypsy lives (Egyptians Act 1530, 1554; Vagrancy Act 1822-24; Highways Act 1835; Hawkers and Pedlars Acts 1810-88). The paper argues that such accounts continue to feature in current media and public discourses (Bhopal & Myers, 2008; Myers, 2012). In many respects the narratives prevalent in today’s media often repeats verbatim fifteenth-century descriptions of Gypsies. This paper will explore how the impact of such discourse is particularly evident in relation to local and national policy making (e.g. housing and education) which regularly invokes inaccurate stereotypes of Gypsy lifestyles. It argues that the perceived mobility of Gypsies is often highly ambiguous or inaccurate; however, it resonates with a sedentarist metaphysics (Malkki, 1992; Cresswell, 2006) in which the world is understood as ordered and territorialised and mobility is perceived as a threat to be repressed.