Academic journal article Romani Studies

Authentic Violence: The Changing Sameness of 'Real' Romani Discourse in Dominic Reeve's Life Story

Academic journal article Romani Studies

Authentic Violence: The Changing Sameness of 'Real' Romani Discourse in Dominic Reeve's Life Story

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over a span of approximately fifty-two years, Dominic Reeve authored five autobiographical publications that focus on his life in Southern England and feature his long-time associations with Romanies/travellers. The first publication, Smoke in the lanes (1958), focuses on Reeve's life during the 1950s, whereas the second, No place like home (1960), provides a more detailed narrative of a few mid-winter days among wagon-dwelling Romanies/travellers. The third publication, Whichever way we turn (1964), covers a period in which Romanies/ travellers gradually exchanged horse-drawn wagons for mechanised forms of transportation/homes. After a gap of over forty years, Reeve's fourth publication, Beneath the blue sky: Four decades of a travelling life in Britain (2007), covers these missing years. Finally, Reeve's latest publication, Green lanes and kettle cranes (2010), includes stories of his early pre-1950s life, other reminiscences and his view of the future. The contents of these five publications are considered as collectively forming Reeve's life story, including the self-written Epilogues and Forewords. The intended reader that Reeve communicates with is primarily someone who is not a Romani/traveller, as the life story is imbued with a didactic voice: Reeve describes and explains a selection of Romani/traveller activities, ways of thinking and acting, but also offers critiques of what he considers to be biased/unjust/misinformed/stereotypical/prejudiced and/or racist views concerning Romani/travellers. In other words, he wants to set the record straight. One focus of Reeve's critique is the main theme of this article: it is present in each part of Reeve's life story and is of great significance for the development of his own subjective speaking/writing position.

Reeve refers repeatedly to the 'real' or 'true' Romani throughout his life story and each publication is imbued with narrative discourses that were available for use at the time of publication. Therefore, the life story provides a rare opportunity to analyse changes in this specific discourse through time, and from one person's collective/individual point of view. Reeve's point of view will be referred to as an insider/outsider and an I/we perspective, as Reeve's 'I' takes up various 'we' positions in his life story. At times he speaks/writes on behalf of or in defence of all Romanies/travellers, whereas in other contexts he takes up positions in relation to specified factions within the group of Romani/travellers. As a result, this article will consist of my own 'outside' interpretations of Reeve's subjective/collective voice(s) that speaks from within an insider/outsider continuum in relation to Romanies/travellers concerning the changing 'real' or 'true' Romani discourse.1 I will use quotations from Reeve's life story throughout the analysis, and the interpretation aims to identify Reeve's view of the changing dominant discourse and the various strategies he uses to communicate with it. I will argue that Reeve's representations of the real and true Romani discourse in his life story change through time, but that the focus of Reeve's antagonism - the distance between his (I/we) views of Romani/traveller definitions and dominant definitions - are trapped within a historically generated dominant dichotomy of the real and fake. Even though the group-related terms that Reeve uses to negotiate and contest recognition change over time, as does the society that he discursively re-presents, they remain largely lodged within a dichotomy that distorts attempts to renegotiate self-recognition and group-recognitions. The analysis indicates that the dichotomy itself needs to be sidestepped if Romanies/travellers are to create a discursive environment that enables not only acceptable forms of self-recognition, but also acceptable forms of co-recognition from others.

Furthermore, Reeve's rendition of the dominant discourse and his own strategies include associations with what have been labelled positivist, revisionist and social constructivist/deconstructive approaches to Romani/traveller identity in Romani Studies. …

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