Mapping the Invisible - EU-ROMA Gypsies – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Mapping the Invisible - EU-ROMA Gypsies
Edited by Lucy Orta
Published by Black Dog Publishing April 2010
Paperback 192 pages 153 b/w and color illustrations 11.5 x 8.5 in
ISBN: 978-1-906155-91-9
UK £24.95 US $29.95

Mapping the Invisible is the first publication dedicated to Gypsies of the European Union.

Gypsies are constantly in the news and Gypsy folk bands are rising up the charts. “Mapping the Invisible” expands on this and takes a more complete look at the culture and lifestyle of the Romani Gypsies, unfortunately though, and this detracts from a great quality book, all under the term Roma, which is incorrect, especially when also Irish Travellers are being incorporated.

Mapping the Invisible: EU-Roma Gypsies takes the reader on a visual journey across Europe with a focus on its fastest-growing ethnic minority: the Romani, the Gypsy People.

It is sad though that the editor and writers of this book fall into the trap created by the academics and people with a vested interest and call all of the Romani People Roma, which is incorrect. The Roma are but one part of the Romani; others are the Sinti, to which the Romanichals belong, and the Cale (Kale). There are Kale in Spain and Kale in Wales (United Kingdom) as well as Kale in Finland.

Then, in the same breath, they have included, as I have indicated already, yet again, more than likely due to bad advice, the Irish Travellers in the whole and while it may be correct that some Irish Travellers have married with Romanichals and Romanichals with Irish Travellers in general there is not much love lost between them and the Romanichals want little if anything to do with them.

Irish Travellers are not Romani and definitely not Roma, though there are some Irish Gypsies that are of Romani origin. In general, however, the Irish Traveller is no more Romani than the ordinary Gadje, the non-Romani. It is not the lifestyle that makes one Romani, that makes one Gypsy but the Blood that courses through one's veins.

This publication is the result of a unique partnership called EU-ROMA, formed by a group of architects, designers and artists wishing to raise awareness of the diversity and richness of the Roma people. The book shows us the EU-ROMA projects conducted together with the Gypsy communities in Romania, Greece, Italy and the UK.

The EU-ROMA partnership was formed as a result of European Community funding, linking the four countries, with the emphasis on an open dialogue on Roma housing issues and public space. The outcomes of EU-ROMA form the heart of this book.

It is also a shame that the writers of this book have not realized that Gypsy and Gypsies is written with a capital first letter, as any ethnic groups and not a lowercase one.

What no one seems to mention when they talk about Gypsy housing in the UK is the fact – unless I have missed it in the book – that residents on Gypsy Caravan Sites provided by the local authorities, whether borough or county level, have no security of tenure, unlike those that rent ordinary council houses.

The Gypsy on a site, even though he will pay rent, council tax, and all the rest has no rights of his plot on which he parks his trailer, his caravan and also the castle doctrine of the inviolability of a home and no search without a warrant and due course does not apply to him.

Should the police raid a Gypsy site all trailers will be searched, and that often in the most demeaning, to a Gypsy, manner.

Britain is seen by many as a bastion of liberty and equal rights and human rights but that does not extend to the Gypsy population who have been here for hundreds of years if not longer even. The Gypsy is a third class citizen, if he is even regarded as a citizen, in Britain.

It is that that must be brought out as well in books. We know how bad it is in the rest of Europe, in Italy, in Hungary, in Romani, Bulgaria, etc. Little is said, however, as to the human rights violations against the indigenous Romani in Britain and also in Germany.

The great European beacons of freedom and justice are not thus when it comes too the Gypsy. Let us not forget that.

“Mapping the Invisible - EU-ROMA Gypsies” is a very interesting book that has, as far as general housing ideas for Gypsies, quite some good food for thought as well, as long as the People would just be allowed to do things for themselves in this department.

A good and interesting book that is being degraded by the fact that the research has not been done in the right places as regards to the understanding of who or what the Romani are and how they are constituted and also as to the fact that at times the noun Gypsy is not written as one.

The book could have gotten a 10 out of 10 were it not for those issues and can therefore only be given a 7 out of 10. Such a shame.

© 2010