Nomadism and Racialization of Poverty: The Case of Roma and Sinti. Roma minorities are usually labelled as ‘nomads’, both in Italy and in Europe. Although in its literal or primary meaning the term ‘nomad’ simply refers to a ‘traveller’ or a ‘peripatetic’ community, in the common use it evokes a wider range of implications. Above all, the term ‘nomad’ implies the idea of primitiveness: a ‘nomadic’ group is usually perceived as a group having an ancestral culture and identity, and ‘nomadism’ is often a mark of ‘backwardness’. This article reconstructs the debate on poverty and destitution in the nineteenth century, and argues that in the Victorian age the terms ‘nomad’ and ‘nomadic tribes’ were used to refer to ‘wandering poors’ and to ‘vagabonds’. The stigma that had surrounded the term ‘vagabond’ throughout the centuries of the modern era was thus transferred to the term ‘nomad’. In the same period, the Roma minorities were labelled as ‘nomadic groups’ and became the ‘new vagabonds’ of the contemporary age. In the final part, the article claims that the identification between ‘nomadism’ and ‘vagrancy’ is also at the root of the more recent public policies on Roma minorities in Italy.
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Romaphobia, Roma, Sinti, vagrancy, nomadism