Academic journal article Romani Studies

This Camp Is Lousy. Ethnography of Romani Adolescence between Peripheries and Global Scenarios

Academic journal article Romani Studies

This Camp Is Lousy. Ethnography of Romani Adolescence between Peripheries and Global Scenarios

Article excerpt

This camp is lousy. Ethnography of Romani adolescence between peripheries and global scenarios. [Questo campo fa schifo. Etnografía dell'adolescenza rom fra périphérie e scenari globali]. Ulderico Daniele. Roma: Meti, 2013, 382 pp. isbn 978-8-86-484010-9

Reviewed by Marco Solimene

Danieles book is based on two years of fieldwork conducted at a Roma settlement, a so-called campsite for nomads' (campo nomadi), situated in the southwestern periphery of Rome, Italy. The author argues that the Italian institutions' increasing role in the educative processes of the inhabitants of authorized settlements is stretching the passage from childhood to adulthood (which in the Romani world appears as immediate and without any intermediary steps) over a relatively long period. Examining the experiences of some young inhabitants of the camp, he thus individuates what, from a non-Romani perspective, might be defined a 'time of adolescence'. This phase would be characterized by a series of re-negotiations. In connection to the experience of migration, young Roma re-negotiate their relation to two different socio-cultural systems: that of their country of origin (Romania) and that of their country of reception (Italy); in relation to the ethnic boundary, the negotiations concern the young Roma's relations with the Romani and the non-Romani world. This in-between position opens up unprecedented opportunities but simultaneously traps the young Roma between the control of older generations (who embrace the limits of gender and group relations based on the principles of honour and shame) and the anti-Gypsy attitudes pervading Italian society. This enquiry focuses on the space of the campo nomadi and mostly on the Romanian Roma inhabiting it (the camp hosts also Bosnian Roma, but they are fewer in number and a secondary object of analysis). Without any pretence to achieve an insider's perspective, and instead with a clear awareness of his position as a non-Roma outsider, the author reveals extremely fascinating spaces of reflection on processes and dynamics that await to be investigated with more specifically oriented ethnographic inquiries.

Daniele starts by noticing the relatively late entrance of the concept of adolescence in the socio-anthropological debate and shows how the conceptualization of age (within which the theme of adolescence is framed) is strictly connected to the vexed question of the nature-culture relation. The first chapter reviews the main approaches to these themes, and especially the opposition between those considering adolescence as an invention of modern society - e.g. Smelser (1981) - and those supporting the idea of adolescence as a modern reinvention that 'did incorporate, in a quite central way, certain older attitudes and modes of thinking' (p. 40, after Demos and Demos 1969: 632). The author thus adopts the perspective proposed by Model, Furstenberg and Hershberg (1976), according to whom adolescence is characterized by a series of transformations concerning work (conclusion of education and stable entrance in the labour market) and family (departure from parental house and creation of a new family) that definitively mark the acquisition of the adult's role. Referring to the life course approach (e.g. Elder 1985) he also explains how the adolescent may be conceived of as an ambiguous and borderline status in the dynamic, discontinuous, and reversible life course of each individual.

Within this frame, the author highlights the intertwining of macro-social factors and individual specificity: looking at adolescence, he argues, one must consider 'individual transformations and transformations of structures and paths within which an individual turns into an adult' (p. 52). The global developments of contemporary society increased the institutionalization of adolescence and stretched its duration; this transition also acquired more visibility in scientific analyses that spelled out its complexity and heterogeneity. …

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