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At the crossroads: Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of education, protection and social change

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This article uses empirical data gathered during a pilot study funded by a local education authority to consider Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of education. It examines the changing role of education within the lives of Gypsy and Traveller parents and children reflecting changing social circumstances, in particular how many parents now feel schooling has a greater place in their children’s lives than would have been the case a generation ago. The research demonstrated that many families felt their children could learn skills at school and that would be necessary to generate an income in the future. This adaptation towards schooling designed for a sedentary population carried with it a large degree of concern from the point of view of Gypsy and Traveller parents around issues such as cultural erosion and safety, (issues that in the past may have led to many children not attending school). Employing concepts such as Goffman’s umwelt and Putnam’s description of defensive bonding social capital this article considers such concerns. It examines how parental anxiety about the transition from primary to secondary schools and the associated perceptions of risk posed by the permissive culture of the sedentary population materialize. It also explores how this transition coincides with parental tensions surrounding the ‘early onset adulthood’ of Gypsy and Traveller children who are regarded within their families and communities as being adults from an early age. Within this context, the article examines some of the very fluid adaptations being made by families to changing economic and social circumstances and also the roles adopted by members of the education ‘community’, in particular Traveller Education Services, in their relationships with Gypsy and Traveller families.
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At the crossroads: Gypsy and Traveller parents' perceptions of education,
protection and social change
Martin Myers
a
; Derek McGhee
b
; Kalwant Bhopal
c
a
Sociology Department, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
b
Division of Sociology & Social Policy,
University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
c
School of Education, University of Southampton,
Southampton, UK
First published on: 06 October 2010
To cite this Article Myers, Martin , McGhee, Derek and Bhopal, Kalwant(2010) 'At the crossroads: Gypsy and Traveller
parents' perceptions of education, protection and social change', Race Ethnicity and Education, 13: 4, 533 — 548, First
published on: 06 October 2010 (iFirst)
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2010.492138
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2010.492138
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Race Ethnicity and Education
Vol. 13, No. 4, December 2010, 533–548
ISSN 1361-3324 print/ISSN 1470-109X online
© 2010 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2010.492138
http://www.informaworld.com
At the crossroads: Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of
education, protection and social change
Martin Myers
a
*, Derek McGhee
b
and Kalwant Bhopal
c
a
Sociology Department, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK;
b
Division of Sociology &
Social Policy, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK;
c
School of Education, University
of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Taylor and FrancisCREE_A_492138.sgm10.1080/13613324.2010.492138Race Ethnicity and Education1361-3324 (print)/1470-109X (online)Original Article2010Taylor & Francis0000000002010MartinMyersM.Myers@open.ac.uk
This article uses empirical data gathered during a pilot study funded by a local
education authority to consider Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of
education. It examines the changing role of education within the lives of Gypsy
and Traveller parents and children reflecting changing social circumstances, in
particular how many parents now feel schooling has a greater place in their
children’s lives than would have been the case a generation ago. The research
demonstrated that many families felt their children could learn skills at school and
that would be necessary to generate an income in the future. This adaptation
towards schooling designed for a sedentary population carried with it a large
degree of concern from the point of view of Gypsy and Traveller parents around
issues such as cultural erosion and safety, (issues that in the past may have led to
many children not attending school). Employing concepts such as Goffman’s
umwelt and Putnam’s description of defensive bonding social capital this article
considers such concerns. It examines how parental anxiety about the transition
from primary to secondary schools and the associated perceptions of risk posed by
the permissive culture of the sedentary population materialize. It also explores
how this transition coincides with parental tensions surrounding the ‘early onset
adulthood’ of Gypsy and Traveller children who are regarded within their families
and communities as being adults from an early age. Within this context, the article
examines some of the very fluid adaptations being made by families to changing
economic and social circumstances and also the roles adopted by members of the
education ‘community’, in particular Traveller Education Services, in their
relationships with Gypsy and Traveller families.
Keywords: Gypsy; Traveller; bonding social capital; umwelt; racism; community;
risk
Introduction
This article is based on a pilot study which examined the role of the Traveller Educa-
tion Service (TES) in a south-coast county in 2007. Local Education Authorities have
funded the TESs in England since the late 1970s to improve the education of travelling
and nomadic children. They have a wide remit that includes liaison between families
and schools to ensure attendance, promoting cultural awareness within schools and
fire fighting unexpected problems as they arise. The TES in this county had well-
established links to the families they worked with, most of the TES members had been
in post for many years and were committed to their work; in our interviews with
*Corresponding author. Email: M.Myers@open.ac.uk
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534 M. Myers et al.
Gypsy and Traveller families there was a clear acknowledgement of the value placed
on the work of the TES.
In this project we conducted semi-structured interviews with four TES practitio-
ners (including teaching assistants, field officers and the head of the TES) and ten
parents who, to different degrees, were being supported by the TES. The majority of
parents (eight out of ten) identified themselves as English Gypsies or English Travel-
lers, sometimes using both descriptions and in some cases also describing themselves
as Romany, (so for example one father in response to a question about his identity
said, ‘Well, I’m a Traveller. You know? An English Romany? Gypsy’). All the
families who described themselves as English Gypsies or Travellers talked about their
family links to the specific geographical boundaries of the education authority and
also to neighbouring areas, (that is to say their family histories tended to have
regional links to the south coast). One mother described her family as Irish Travellers
and talked about her upbringing and that of her husband in the Republic of Ireland.
One family described themselves as Travelling Showmen and although they had a
well-established base in the county this was only used during the winter months, for
the majority of the year family members travelled between different fairgrounds.
Whilst TES members used the term ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller’
1
(GRT) in official
communications with the research project and within their policy documents, they
tended to adopt the more specific terms used by individual family members when talk-
ing less formally or discussing their work with specific families. This article uses the
self-descriptions given by individual family members when describing respondents’
backgrounds. When describing more general findings that relate to the study as a
whole we have preferred to use the generic term ‘Gypsy and Traveller’ reflecting the
range of self-descriptions used by respondents rather than GRT. The term GRT was
not used by non-TES respondents in any circumstances and could also be misunder-
stood in this research to suggest that our work includes the experiences of Roma from
a European background. In three cases we interviewed both parents, in the others we
spoke only to the mother, (it should be noted however that a distinguishing feature of
all these interviews was the tendency for other family members – parents, grandpar-
ents, sisters and children – to make contributions before, after and sometimes during
interviews). All the families included in the study were either housed or living on
permanent sites. The quality of accommodation and the facilities available on sites
varied considerably.
The focus of this parent-centric research was to examine Gypsy and Traveller
parents’ expectations, attitudes and concerns about their children’s education. These
include concerns about the lack of relevance of the curriculum, about cultural erosion
that might stem from school attendance and about children’s safety (Bhopal 2004;
Clark and Greenfields 2006). During the interviews most of the parents reflected upon
their own poor experiences at school, often recalling memories of bullying and racism,
and described how these informed their choices when sending their children to school.
Whilst some parents considered the achievement of basic reading and writing
skills as adequate educational attainment for their children most acknowledged the
importance of a more comprehensive education. It would be an over-simplification to
suggest that there was a 50/50 split between progressive and ‘traditional’ Gypsy and
Traveller attitudes to education in our study. Instead, parents who felt their children’s
future economic survival would depend on different work patterns to their own tended
to encourage greater participation in schooling, (including parents who expressed a
nostalgic attachment to a more ‘traditional’ lifestyle). Levinson (2007) has noted the
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Race Ethnicity and Education 535
relationship between changing economic circumstances and attitudes towards literacy
in his examination of the value placed upon literacy and illiteracy in Gypsy and Trav-
eller communities. In particular he argues that at a time when traditional aspects of
‘Gypsy lifestyle’ have been disrupted, (due to changing travelling patterns, economic
circumstances and the erosion of Romany language), then, ‘Illiteracy becomes an
ethnic identifier, a badge of honor, and far from a deficiency, it is almost an
accomplishment’ (33).
Levinson goes on to acknowledge how the gaining of literacy is ‘pragmatic
adaptation’ on the part of Gypsies towards the dominant culture in which there is ‘a
choice between economic survival and cultural identity’ (33). Levinson’s fieldwork
was initially conducted in the late 1990s, with follow-up research taking place in
2005–2006. Whilst our research identifies (and develops) similar themes to
Levinson’s in particular the link between basic ‘human capital’ skills such as literacy
and social capital in Gypsy and Traveller communities; in our research we note that
pragmatic arguments for literacy have largely won the argument. Every parent in our
study wanted their children to possess at least basic literacy skills. That being said, we
also noted that despite the value placed on schooling by families, many concerns were
raised in our study about education provision. That schools intended to educate a
sedentary population have not been successful at educating Gypsy and Traveller chil-
dren has been recognized within government policy since the 1960s (Plowden Report
1967; Swann Report 1985; Department for Education and Skills [DfES] 2003, 2005,
2006). During the same period, the attendance of Gypsy and Traveller children has
increased greatly (Acton 2004) but concern remains about children’s lack of achieve-
ment (Derrington and Kendall 2004, 2007). The Pupil Level Annual Schools Census
(PLASC) has only recorded data under the ethnic categories ‘Gypsy/Roma’ and
‘Travellers of Irish heritage’ since the 2004–2005 school year, however since that time
children within these categories have consistently been at the bottom of measures of
achievement (Department for Children, Schools and Families [DCSF] 2008).
Whilst conducting this research we realized that the data collected exceeded our
intended focus on perceptions of formal education and the role of the TES in the
county. Despite all of the families included in the study being ‘housed’ or living in
permanent sites we realized that we had tapped into a rich vein of data on Gypsy and
Traveller perceptions of space in relation to the home and school and, related to this,
TES practitioners and parents’ perceptions around risk, safety and protection in Gypsy
and Traveller communities. This article is divided into two parts. The first examines
Gypsy and Traveller parents’ perceptions of the changing place of education in their
own and their children’s lives. It also examines TES practitioners’ views on parental
attitudes, priorities and concerns with regards to education. The second part examines
parental concerns with regards to education, employing concepts such as Goffman’s
umwelt and Putnam’s description of defensive bonding social capital. It explores
Gypsy and Traveller parents and TES practitioners’ observations on ‘closed’ commu-
nities, parental anxieties about the transition from primary to secondary school, and
associated perceptions of the risk posed by permissive gaujo
2
‘culture’ on Gypsy and
Traveller young people. We will also explore the tension between the protectiveness
of Gypsy and Traveller parents and what we call ‘early onset adulthood’ in which
young people are regarded by their communities as being adults from an early age.
The article will also examine some of the very fluid relationships that are emerging
within the adaptations made by families to changing economic and social
circumstances.
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536 M. Myers et al.
The place of Gypsy and Traveller education in a changing world
Gypsy and Traveller culture
Some parents were nostalgic for the passing of traditional ways of life and felt their
communities have been forced into change. In this context education was perceived
ambivalently, it may be ‘good for the children, but it’s not, maybe, so good for their
traditional way of life’ (Teri,
3
English Gypsy). Eddy, also an English Gypsy,
suggested gaujo society had messed up traditional ways of life that informed his
upbringing,
you wanted us to stop making primrose baskets, pegs, the old weaving baskets. You
know what I mean? Begging on the streets, say, selling heather and stuff like that. But
that’s our way. But all that is lost, they’re not being taught those things.
Eddy blames the loss of traditions and skills on gaujos wanting ‘us to have an
education, you wanted us to live in houses’. His experience of the transition since the
late 1970s, from a mobile to a housed lifestyle had not been a happy process. His
apparent nostalgia for his childhood was countered by accounts of the hardships of his
earlier life and his anger at racism and bullying he had encountered. His current
circumstances in which he and his large family rely on state welfare payments, jars
with memories of his ‘freer’ upbringing. The result being that he aspires to own his
own land or return to a life on the local authority site. Within Eddy’s family there is a
strong commitment to maintaining aspects of Gypsy and Traveller culture and the
continuation of distinct skills. For example, during our interview Eddy and his wife
Jean reflected with great pride on their eldest son’s ability to catch fish and cook them,
a skill that was not to be found amongst their son’s non-Gypsy friends.
Like many Gypsy and Traveller parents, Eddy also noted that many of the ways
their parents had of earning a living, such as seasonal agricultural work had disap-
peared through mechanization. It is in response to these changing times, according to
Eddy, that education becomes necessary:
a lot of Gypsy families now want their children to go to school because the way the
world is changing now, you know, you need an education to get anything in life. So,
obviously these Gypsy families want their children to go to school, to get an education,
to get a good job and not be going around, knocking on doors, trying to see if you’ve got
a bit of scrap metal or a bit of gardening work to do just to tide you over.
Eddy is fully aware that his ‘travelling’ or ‘mobile’ upbringing and the necessities
of working from an early age resulted in intermittent school attendance and poor
educational attainment, today he, ‘can’t go out and get a full time job because I can’t
read and write. I got no education … I never sat for my exams and all that because we
had to move all the time’. The restrictions associated with being unable to read and
write were a common theme in interviews, and whilst only a generation ago were not
considered a huge handicap, today all parents identified basic literacy as necessary.
One impact of the legacy of illiteracy has been to heighten the importance attached to
children attending school, particularly in families where parents have low levels of
literacy. However one ‘negative’ legacy of illiteracy in families is that in many cases
Gypsy and Traveller parental definitions of ‘being educated’ are limited to just being
able to read and write. Some parents did not identify any benefits of education beyond
these basic skills or felt that education that went further was likely to have a negative
impact on the family and the community. According to Katrina, a TES field worker,
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Race Ethnicity and Education 537
parents want their children to acquire ‘the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic’
but at the same time ‘they also want access to more practical education’. Courses in
tree surgery, for example, are popular for boys and their parents as such skills do not
interrupt the young persons’ continuing place in their community, and ‘could be used
to support their families within GRT communities’.
Community and family obligations
Although Gypsy and Traveller parental attitudes to education are changing, TES
practitioners also noted that in their communities many factors come before school.
According to Jackie, other work commitments, crises at home, illness, funerals,
weddings, baptisms and relatives in hospital, ‘all those things will come before educa-
tion, mostly, for the families’. All the TES practitioners mentioned ‘family obligations’
as a disruptive factor in school attendance, often emphasizing the expansive and extended
nature in terms of distances travelled and time away. Katrina recalls one example,
I’ve just had a highly mobile Irish family and Gran died and I would say they’ve lost six
weeks due to a funeral, going to Ireland, travelling around various family members and
then … there was a funeral mass in London. So they attended that.
Where the cultural significance of such obligations is not acknowledged by the
schools or simply underestimated by them, then this can be a source of tension in
relationships between families and schools.
Other disruptions to school attendance
Some of the most mobile families, Travelling Showmen for example, can travel half
the year (or more) to make a living. When the weather is bad over the summer these
families ‘stay out longer’ to make up for poor takings. The non-sedentary nature of
such a lifestyle means that families may encounter unusual complications; Katrina
recalled Travelling Showmen children leaving school to work with their parents one
February and not seeing them again until December after the families’ vehicles were
stranded due to a foot and mouth disease outbreak.
Illness was frequently cited by TES practitioners as a factor in poor attendance.
Both temporary and permanent sites were often situated on marginal pieces of land
that offered very poor living conditions. One local authority site for example over-
looks both the council’s amenity waste site and sewage works. Its facilities consist of
an outside toilet block with no shower facilities and there is an ongoing problem with
rats. The positioning of local authority sites in unsuitable locations has been evidenced
in existing research (for example, Cripps 1976; Taylor 2008). Members of the TES
noted that children living on these sites are vulnerable to opportunistic infections,
especially chest infections. Members of the TES also noted that if only one child was
sick many parents would keep all of their children off school until the sick child was
fully recovered. These types of practices have a direct negative impact on the
attendance and educational success of Gypsy and Traveller children.
Expectations of education
Alongside attendance, the other factor to impact on the low educational attainment
levels is the widely held belief in Gypsy and Traveller communities that a primary
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538 M. Myers et al.
level education is sufficient (Levinson 2007). This is compounded by ‘cultural
factors’ that come into play at puberty, which make staying on in school problematic
for Gypsy and Traveller young people. Here we are referring to early onset adulthood
in which teenagers are deemed by their families and communities to have reached the
status of adulthood shortly after making the transition to secondary school. This
causes Gypsy and Traveller young people considerable problems at school where they
may become irritated when they are not treated with the same respect they enjoy at
home. Such frustrations are also felt by teachers, Katrina explained there were ‘plenty
of teachers who really can’t handle’ Gypsy and Traveller children because they are not
‘fawning and deferential enough’, towards them. She also described how a greater
tension existed between home and school for boys than for girls reflecting a public/
private gendered duality (Heidensohn 1985). Katrina described how boys, who were
expected to become breadwinners in the outside world, might well be thinking ‘I’m
12 now, do I really need to be at school, or should I be earning sixty quid from my
dad?’, whilst for girls, expected to become homemakers, choices were less clear cut
and so might be thinking, ‘do I go to school to see my mates or do I stay home and do
the cleaning? You know, I think I’ll go to school’.
Another TES field worker described how Gypsy and Traveller women’s
expectations could be seen as quite ‘old-fashioned’ compared with other women, in
this sense attending school for older adolescent girls might provide something of a
break from the restrictions of family life.
Anxiety, safety and the transition to secondary school
Racism in schools
Helen, (Head of TES) suggested that a history of bullying ‘generation after
generation’ in schools has produced a heightened sensitivity to bullying by Gypsy and
Traveller parents and that poor childhood experiences often make the prospect of
engaging with school a highly daunting challenge. As a result Gypsy and Traveller
parents sometimes respond ‘in what seems to be a totally inappropriate manner to
something that’s a fairly low key issue (for the school)’ and results in these parents
withdrawing children from school.
Eddy recalled ‘breaking down’ and crying on a teacher’s shoulder after an
accumulation of insults and name-calling at one particular school when he was a boy.
All the parents we interviewed suggested name-calling and bullying remains a prob-
lem in schools and that this reflects the prejudice that Gypsy and Traveller children
often experience in wider society, beyond the school gates. Mary, an Irish Traveller
noted that both she and her children are called ‘pikeys’ or ‘scum’ on a regular basis
and her children have been called ‘dirty pikeys’ or ‘tramps’ by their school peers.
Reflecting the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights’ comments
about racism in the UK media, many parents believed that the name-calling their
children endured was viewed by schools as ‘a lesser racism’ relative to the racism
experienced by other minority groups:
to judge by the levels of invective that can regularly be read in the national press,
Gypsies would appear to be the last ethnic minority in respect of which openly racist
views can still be acceptably expressed. (Gil-Robles 2005, 43)
Gypsy and Traveller parents believe that despite being a minority group them-
selves, their communities have fewer rights and therefore fewer protections than other
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Race Ethnicity and Education 539
minority groups. Irena (an English Gypsy) said ‘we don’t have as much rights as we
should have’ and described a ‘racism order’ in which greater sensitivity was demon-
strated towards other minority groups. According to Irena, ‘if a kid gets called nigger
or whatever, they’ve got the colour to say look, they did say something about me’.
Katrina suggested Gypsy and Traveller parents’ heightened sensitivity to bullying
and name-calling and the alleged indifference of schools have resulted in these parents
making particular demands of the education system alongside the development of
their children’s basic skills. Gypsy and Traveller parents also ‘want acceptance, they
want equality, they want an end to discrimination, an end to bullying and racism and
to know that their children will be safe and happy and nurtured within the school envi-
ronment’.
Gypsy and Traveller culture and the TES
According to George (an English Gypsy), a ‘Traveller-friendly school’ is one that can
‘accommodate, or have an understanding or have come across it or have had Travel-
lers in the school before’. George went on to stress the importance attached to a
school’s ‘reputation’. Such schools were well-known throughout Gypsy and Traveller
communities, according to George, ‘it’s like everything with Travellers … if they
know of a good thing. It’s word of mouth’. This reflected the importance of oral tradi-
tions within communities, especially when it comes to mapping family and other
connections between different groups. George suggested there would be no need for
a genealogical television programme like the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?
in his community. According to George, whilst gaujo’s ‘don’t know anything about
their own history’, within Gypsy and Traveller communities,
You’ve only got to know their name and where they come from or where they are now
and you would know what their father, their grandfather, who they was, what they done
and all their sins over the last ten generations.
Family knowledge and family connections are living memories for Gypsy and
Traveller families. For TES practitioners gaining an entry into such networks is
crucial to building trust and rapport with the community. In many ways the existence
of such extended networks facilitates the work of the TES, because
as soon as they know, you know or you’ve worked with or you’ve met any of their
extended relations, it’s almost like a key’s unlocked and you’re in. (Theresa, TES
teaching assistant)
However, such relationships can be a double-edged sword and as Theresa noted
being accepted by the community means ‘you’re in with the whole community’ and
consequently that anything said about a particular pupil or parent to another pupil or
parent would eventually be retold round the entire community.
In many ways, the role of the TES is to be a friendly, familiar, non-judgemental
presence, acting as ‘a gateway’ between parents and schools. In doing so, TES prac-
titioners need to adopt certain etiquettes in their relationships with families. For exam-
ple, Irena described what she saw as the appropriate order of introductions with
regards to the TES making contact with families. Irena explained that first contact
should not be between a TES practitioner and a pupil in school. This could put a
Gypsy or Traveller child, according to Irena, at some risk, especially if that child’s
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540 M. Myers et al.
identity as a ‘Gypsy’ was not yet exposed. Irena was very concerned that an unman-
aged and unexpected TES intervention with one of her children could lead to their
exposure and from her perspective, result in them being vulnerable. At the same time,
Irena suggested that unmanaged contact from TES practitioners could have repercus-
sions which could result in the interruption of a child’s self-management of his or her
‘stigmatized identity’ (Goffman 1990) which could result in them becoming, accord-
ing to Irena, ‘an outcast, makes them turn into a purple kid in the class … You don’t
need someone coming into the school going right this is the Gypsy child here’. Irena
preferred TES practitioners ‘to come to her home’ in the first instance and in that
process the TES practitioner would potentially become ‘a personal friend’, gaining
intimacy with the family and becoming trusted to act on its behalf in the process.
The transition to secondary school
Protection and exposure in many ways are central to Gypsy and Traveller parental
anxiety regarding their children’s transition from primary to secondary school. Paren-
tal concerns are configured within an equation that balances the values of schooling,
considerations that a primary-level education might be sufficient, and a desire to
prevent children’s exposure to undesirable influences and behaviours. There is now a
significant body of work that has documented how particular elements of school atten-
dance including sex education, Physical Education and sports lessons and school trips
for example, might be considered undesirable for reasons of cultural inappropriateness
or safety (Bhopal 2004; Derrington and Kendall 2004). Two particular findings stood
out in our research highlighting parental concerns about the transition from primary to
secondary schools; firstly the relative physical security of primary schools compared
to secondary schools, and, secondly the risk associated with the corruptive influences
of permissive gaujo culture at secondary schools.
Although size differences reflected typical differences in school rolls, they also
seemed to reflect differences between village or suburban, and, town or urban, settings
respectively for primary and secondary schools. Irena made sharp distinctions
between the tranquil and safe suburban ‘village’ where she lived and her youngest
children attended primary school, and, the nearby seaside town where her eldest son
attended secondary school. The ‘village’ was a place where,
you can wake up in the morning and out the window you hear birds. It’s really quiet. It’s
lovely. Even the kids when they come out to play; you’ll get two maybe four kids, and
that’s about it.
By contrast, the town was described as ‘very run down … lot[s] of run down
estates’ with ‘a lot of trouble on the streets’. She talked about the widespread rumours
of paedophiles being re-housed along the seafront concluding it was a place where,
people can’t leave each other alone, it’s a known fact that. I know you gets this every-
where, but for being a little town, there’s too much goes on.
Members of the TES noted how differences of size, physical security and
control were seen by parents to distinguish primary and secondary schools. Village
primary schools were viewed as, ‘somewhere for them [children] to go during the
day, particularly in the winter if they’re mobiles … because then it’s warm, dry and
cosy’ (Jackie, TES field officer). Parents liked the physical security afforded by
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Race Ethnicity and Education 541
double-entry security common in primary schools, with visitors buzzed in at the
gate before reporting to reception. Secondary schools by contrast did not offer the
same level of security, reflecting the greater maturity of their pupils, they tended to
have open access. One TES field worker, Theresa, described how the larger size of
secondary schools also compounded parents’ negative memories of schools as
‘unsafe … big scary places’.
Beyond spatial and physical issues, secondary schools are also viewed as places
where Gypsy and Traveller children and young people are exposed to ‘the dangers of
the outside world’ (Helen). According to Theresa,
there is a general acceptance, assuming the child’s happiness and safety, that primary
education is positive. There are very few parents who would object to that … secondary
education is where it all falls apart … they’re just being pulled apart between school
culture, ethnic culture and travelling home expectations.
According to George, ‘it’s the social side of school that the travelling children
don’t cope with’. This was not a problem for boys who would leave school to work
with their fathers at around 13 or 14, but was a big issue for girls who were exposed
‘through mixing, talking and chatting’ to the lifestyles of gaujo teenagers. He
described the tension for young people coping with two lifestyles and two moral
codes, they
are in misery because they got to acquire the two cultures. They’re in two things, right?
They’re trying to adapt to the children at school right? … [but] … they can’t cross over
because there’s a line what they can’t cross…
This tension and dissonance between the two cultures causes trouble, either Gypsy
and Traveller children being bullied or becoming the aggressors (usually in response
to bullying or name-calling). George’s solution is to take his children out of school,
the boys enter the world of work and his daughter continues her education, but does
so from home with occasional assistance from a private tutor in what he describes as
a ‘closed environment’.
Space, culture and social capital
George’s creation of a ‘closed environment’ in which to educate his daughter mirrored
the picture of ‘small enclosed communities’ (Helen) at risk from the outside world
depicted by parents and members of the TES. In many ways Gypsy and Traveller
parents see their communities as being defensive, tightly bonded and separate
communities that are pleased to exist within the status quo of ‘live and let live’
tolerance. Describing his life in a rural environment George explained,
we’ve been here seven years on this site. Right? And we don’t interact with the local
villagers … There’s one or two people up in the village that speaks to us now … walking
the dogs and because I go to work … but like we wouldn’t be going to have a cup with
nobody and they wouldn’t be coming to us … it’s like a standoff…it’s not hostility it’s
just like a standoff.
Recalling her childhood and adolescence Irena suggested that interactions between
Gypsy and Traveller and settled communities were restricted by the lack of attachment
to specific places, ‘Travellers don’t trust a lot of people, because you’re never in an
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542 M. Myers et al.
area long enough to have roots with people, so you tend to stick in your own
community’. Despite being housed now herself, Irena, like George tries to maintain a
polite, but safe distance from her neighbours, ‘I speak to both neighbours here, I say
good morning and hi, but I will not go in their houses, and I’ve been here three and a
half years’.
Going into a gaujo family home or allowing gaujos into their own homes involved
a degree of consideration and negotiation about crossing cultural barriers. Irena, like
George, preferred non-Gypsy and Traveller acquaintances to visit her at home, but she
would never reciprocate. Many of the parents interviewed stipulated their children
were not allowed to go and play at non-Gypsy and Traveller houses. George explained
how his daughter brought friends home to play when she was at primary school but
was not allowed to visit other children’s homes because of safety concerns,
My daughter when she was at [primary] School, had her friends come back for tea, my
sister’s boys have their friends back for tea, but their children don’t go back in return and
we explain that to the parents. We are very sorry. Your children can come to us, but we
don’t let ours … because a lot of these parents live on main roads and housing estates
and places, you know.
The parents we spoke to took great pride in their ability ‘to keep ourselves to
ourselves’ and to remain a ‘close-knit people’, in many ways reflecting understand-
ings of the spatialized safety that families created around themselves. Talking
about the safety of his children, George’s very explicit comment that, ‘we’ve got a
closed environment here’, describes a familial closed and protected environment
reminiscent of social relations in traditional communities defined by Ferdinand
Tönnies as Gemeinschaft (see Harris 2001). Whilst this closed environment has a
bearing on the wider social life of Gypsy and Traveller communities it has also
clearly developed for the explicit purpose of protecting their children, as George
made clear,
Our father-in-law is there, cousin up there and my sister-in-law down there, right? So we
know everybody here right? When you’re in a council estate, you don’t know who is
living next door to you, right … we don’t put our children in somebody else’s hands …
and like when we lived in sites, on Gypsy sites, you know, we know the people on there.
We know their families, we know their people because we’ve either travelled with them,
been brought up with them or my sister has or my cousin has. We know who we’re with,
you know.
In many ways the distanced, yet polite toleration of settled communities, the non-
reciprocal ‘visiting’ rules and the self-descriptions of close-knit, familial Gypsy and
Traveller communities are a celebration of a particular variety of social capital.
Putnam, Feldstein and Cohen suggest that social capital refers to social networks,
norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance and trustworthiness (2003, 2). For Putnam
there are two varieties of social capital, these are bonding and bridging social capital
(Putnam 2000, 22). Putnam, Feldstein and Cohen explain the distinction between
social capital as ‘some networks link people who are similar in crucial respects and
tend to be inward-looking – bonding social capital. Others encompass different types
of people and tend to be outward-looking – bridging social capital’ (2003, 2).
The social capital that Gypsy and Traveller communities take pride in and employ
to keep their children safe from danger is bonding social capital. In many ways a
minority community’s (especially an ‘unpopular’ minority community) investment in
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Race Ethnicity and Education 543
bonding social capital is understandable. Putnam points out that bonding rather than
bridging social capital is not uncommon in ‘ethnic enclaves where it can provide
crucial sources of social and psychological support … for the less fortunate members
of the community’ (Putnam 2000, 22). In Gypsy and Traveller communities bonding
social capital is spatialized in order to create protective ‘closed environments’ which
approximate Erving Goffman’s description of the umwelt. The concept umwelt was
first developed by the Estonian biologist Jakob von Uexküll in his seminal work
Theoretical Biology published in 1926. According to von Uexküll, the umwelt is the
‘phenomenal world’ or the ‘self world’ of an organism (Manning and Lindenmayer
2004, 622). According to Ibrahim, Goffman used the concept umwelt to stress that
human embodiment is central to the constitution of the social world (2007, 6).
Goffman defines umwelt as ‘the region around an individual from which signs of
alarm come’ and employs it to capture how people as social actors perceive and
manage their settings when interacting in public places (1971, 252). The umwelt for
Goffman comprises a moving bubble, a ‘hemispheric umwelten’ which follows the
individual around (1971, 255). According to Young, Goffman’s theorization of the
umwelt has two dimensions, that is, (1) the area in which one feels safe, the area of
security, and (2) the area of one’s awareness, the area of apprehension (1999, 71).
The relationship between these two areas is inversely reciprocal in that as the former
decreases, the latter vastly increases (Young 1999, 73). Anthony Giddens in turn
adapted the term umwelt to refer to the protective cocoon around individuals as they
negotiate the rigours of risk and trust in modern societies (1991, 126). ‘Basic trust’
here is connected, as Giddens observes, to the interpersonal organization of time and
space (1991, 38). According to Giddens, basic trust should be understood as ‘a
screening-off device in relation to risks and dangers’ in an individual’s or a group’s
‘surrounding settings of action and interaction’ (Giddens 1991, 40). Basic trust is in
turn, according to Giddens ‘the emotional support of the defensive carapace or
protective cocoon which individuals carry around with them’ (1991, 40). Thus, for
Giddens the umwelt is ‘a “moving” world of normalcy which the individual takes
around from situation to situation, although this feat depends also on others who
confirm, or take part in, reproducing this world. The individual creates, as it were, a
“moving wave-front of relevance” which orders contingent events in relation to risk
and potential alarms’ (Giddens 1991, 128). One of the TES field officers describes
the dynamics involved in the protective cocoon developed from bonding social capi-
tal experienced as an interplay of risk and trust in the Gypsy and Traveller parental
‘mindset’,
It’s really hard for them to let their barriers down and trust and they’re quite private
people anyway, you know, and they do keep themselves to themselves and they do tend
to stay within their community because that’s where they feel safe. (Jackie)
In many ways Gypsy and Traveller parents are attempting to create (and protect)
‘a closed protective environment’ for the protection of their children and young
people. This moving bubble of protection is as much about the protection and main-
tenance of traditions and lifestyles as it is about protecting their young people from
what they see as the negative influence of drugs, alcohol, permissive sexuality and
racist bullying.
Although the families we interviewed shared many outlooks on life, their
personal circumstances were often very different. This is perhaps best quantified by
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544 M. Myers et al.
the extremes of George and Eddy’s very different lives. Dependent upon state
welfare payments and living in poor quality housing, Eddy’s world seemed to have
shrunk to the confines of his house located in a predominantly gaujo estate. To a
certain extent Eddy and his family have had to ‘integrate’ into this environment and
could not, even if they wanted to, maintain what George describes as a standoff
with non-Gypsy neighbours. The maintenance of his umwelten or protective bubble
around his family is for Eddy an impossible dream and his need to engage with the
non-Gypsy social world seems to be pushed to the fore in most aspects of his life.
The TES performed a greater role in the lives of Eddy’s family than George’s,
which were much more active in the management of the family’s dealings with the
school. In this respect, the TES seemed to be part of Eddy’s umwelten/bubble (or at
least close to its protective edge) as the TES practitioners have become ‘intimate
resources’ in social capital terms for his family to draw on in that the TES are
involved in the management (bridging) of the spaces in between Eddy’s home and
his children’s schools. George’s world differed significantly; he appeared overtly
wealthy as a result of his management of a diverse range of enterprises. This wealth
materialized in the physical world he had created for his extended family. Having
purchased his own land and successfully fought a contentious planning battle,
George had created a secluded and near idyllic space in which three family trailers
were situated. George’s ‘stand-off’ with his neighbours may have reflected day-to-
day social contacts, but an even more important process seemed to be the spatial
siting. On a winter day when hedges and trees were denuded of leaves, it was just
possible, if you knew what to look for, to catch a glimpse of a trailer from the near-
est road. But, by and large, the presence of the families went unnoticed; a small
discreet signpost marked a small discreet access road to their homes. Describing his
relationship with the non-Gypsy world, George like Eddy, talked about name-
calling and racism but it seemed to trouble him personally to a lesser degree.
George’s world offered him greater security and if he was angered by the worst
elements of the non-Gypsy world, he had created a space within which he could
manage that anger with relative ease. George expressed a wholehearted support for
the work of the TES, but they played only a minor role in his dealings with the
school. He viewed the TES as merely a point of contact used initially to identify a
sympathetic local school, but after that it was he and his wife who would deal with
the head and teachers themselves. Perhaps what we are observing in the contrast
between George and Eddy is something equating to a ‘class-based’ difference in
their respective resources, capacity and attitudes to the TES which belies the yet to
be researched further internal differentiations lurking under generic terms such as
‘Gypsy and Traveller’ communities and acronyms such as GRT.
George and Eddy both had daily dealings with the gaujo world, but for George
returning home was a return to a place of greater security. When discussing his
dreams of how he would live his life, Eddy spoke about acquiring a small piece of
secluded land, away from the gaujo gaze, on which to provide a home for his
family; it was an unattainable mirror image of George’s world. The home environ-
ment George had created for himself and his family was for George and Eddy
both idyllic and practical. In geographical/spatial terms George’s site offered both
seclusion and a comfortable distance from ‘non-Gypsy’ society. In sociological
terms, George’s home and his surrounding land offered opportunities for his
family and extended family to bond, defend and look after each other in their own
umwelten.
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Race Ethnicity and Education 545
Conclusion
In this article we managed to tap into the tensions that materialize when Gypsy and
Traveller young pupils make the transition from primary to secondary school. This
institutional transition is simultaneous or near simultaneous with another transition in
Gypsy and Traveller communities, that is, from childhood to adulthood. Safety, risk
and danger, as well as tolerance, trust and interaction are subthemes structuring the
examination of these two tensions in the context of education. Gypsy and Traveller
young people are portrayed by their parents and TES practitioners as being trapped
between two cultures, two moral codes and two very different sets of expectations.
They are portrayed by their parents as being vulnerable to bullying, discrimination and
unrecognized racism. Yet at the same time they enter adulthood at a very young age,
with responsibilities and freedoms that far exceed those of their gaujo peers. There are
unresolved contradictions in the parent’s discourse on safety. Certain risks are viewed
as acceptable and are therefore normalized in Gypsy and Traveller communities and
families (for example, risks associated with 12-year-old boys, performing ‘adult’
tasks); while other risks become perhaps exaggerated.
Whilst conducting this research we identified many ‘cultural’ differences that
contributed to the strained relationship between Gypsy and Traveller communities
and secondary schools. Family practices such as mobile employment, extended
family obligations disrupting school attendance, or different perceptions about the
relevance of the school curriculum to children’s career choices all played a significant
part in shaping the relationship between schools and families. However these differ-
ent practices also need to be contextualized within a deeper understanding of the
place of space and protection from the perspective of Gypsy and Traveller parents. In
many ways, academics and practitioners should also attend to the cultural differences
associated with particular varieties of social capital and Gypsy and Traveller parents’
attempts to protect their children and their traditions from outside influences and
‘outside dangers’. Gypsy and Traveller culture, (not just in the United Kingdom), has
historically shown a great ability to adapt to changing economic and social circum-
stances. In some respects this is a means of survival and an obvious effect of being a
marginalized minority group. However, within the relationship of Gypsy and Travel-
ler communities and schools there is perhaps in the twenty-first century a heightened
tension. For example, Acton (2004) has noted that despite many accounts of Gypsy
and Traveller groups apparently not desiring education there is also evidence going
back 200 years to show Gypsy and Traveller groups wanting to receive schooling but
it not being made available to them. These circumstances have been worsened by the
type of education that has generally been delivered to Gypsy and Traveller children.
In today’s schools it seems apparent that schools and education departments are
conscious of a need to deliver education to Gypsy and Traveller children, but often
fail to engage with the cultural differences between the school and different commu-
nities. At a time when Gypsy and Traveller communities have shifted their emphasis
towards a greater desire for formal education dictated by concerns for their children’s
futures, it still seems that culturally insensitive education undermines potential oppor-
tunities. Worse still is the feeling that as the need for education increases this is not
matched by an appropriate educational response so the tension between Gypsy and
Traveller and school worlds increases. Schools that were experienced by parents in a
very negative fashion are aligned with new failings today. If parents withdraw their
children from schools (for example, in response to bullying or racism) despite
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546 M. Myers et al.
wishing them to acquire an education, (which some of the parents in this study did),
then this possibly undermines a moment in which there should be a critical rethinking
of the engagement between schools and Gypsy and Traveller communities. Whilst it
seems obvious that schools can provide different learning environments, different
timetables and different subjects in order to actively engage with the needs and
constraints of some children, schools also need to rethink how they engage with
Gypsy and Traveller culture to create spaces in which Gypsy and Traveller families
can feel comfortable. It is perhaps easier to understand how Gypsy and Traveller
families construct spatialized understandings of safety in which the boundaries of a
site or a piece of land might be understood to represent an area of safety, but schools
also do something very similar. The safety and protection associated with schools is
well recognized from the perspective of the sedentary population, but, for other
groups, including many Gypsy and Traveller families, entering schools means pene-
trating a defensive structure that protects the dominant sedentary population from
‘outsiders’ for them (Bhopal and Myers 2008). For these families, the safety of
schools is organized around the safety of the sedentary population. Despite the fami-
lies included in our study being housed or living on permanent sites, some of their
considerations of safety and risks with regards to their children seem to be distinctive
from non-Gypsy and Traveller parents. As well as sharing the safety considerations
common to most parents, Gypsy and Traveller parents were concerned about racism
(especially incidents that in their opinion were not being recognized as being racist by
some schools), ‘cultural’ erosion and the risk associated with educational attainment
in terms of them losing their children to ‘the gaujo world’.
The role of the TES is often about negotiating how the mutual fears of schools
and Gypsy and Traveller communities can best be managed, how different cultures
can meet halfway. Much of this is about the deployment of local knowledge, of how
to gain trust with families or how to engage a school in appropriate behaviours.
There’s a certain irony in the TES role that they need to be the most fluid and the
most agile of everyone, they need to be comfortable having a cup of tea in a trailer on
a site and also walking the corridors of schools and education departments. In many
ways they negotiate and penetrate the spatialized worlds of Gypsy and Traveller
communities, both the very safe and secure bubbles of home life and the spaces asso-
ciated with danger such as schools. In entering the Gypsy and Traveller world TES
practitioners have to initiate, build and maintain great trust with family members and
often they have to do this in an intimate fashion by becoming friendly with families
and entering into their worlds. In this sense, the hemispheric bubble that represents
trust and security and the mechanisms of bonding social capital can be seen to absorb
elements of the gaujo world in order to maintain the stability of Gypsy and Traveller
communities.
The overall conclusion from this pilot study is that more research needs to be
conducted on the place of safety, protection and risk-avoidance strategies in Gypsy
and Traveller communities and how these might be having a negative impact on
Gypsy and Traveller young people staying in secondary education for longer.
Notes
1. There is some contestation around the use of terms for groups of people who may share
travelling backgrounds in the United Kingdom (see Bhopal and Myers 2008). GRT is a
generic term that is often used to encompass heterogeneous groups; it can be a useful form
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Race Ethnicity and Education 547
of official nomenclature when used by the TES for example to encompass the range of
groups for whom they have a responsibility (and would generally include other groups than
those participating in this research e.g. more recently arrived Roma from other parts of
Europe and New Age Travellers). GRT can also be a less useful term, when it is used
generically for example to understand the amalgamation of different GRT groups within
popular imaginations.
2. Gaujo is the Romany word meaning non-Gypsy.
3. All names are anonymized.
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Purpose – Much has been written over the past 50 years about the concerns associated with the educational underachievement of Gypsy children in England. This work has usually focussed on ethnicity and mobility as key factors that affect school attendance. However, it is only relatively recently that a concern with gender relations has entered the debate. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to provide an empirically driven contribution to this fledging area of enquiry. Design/methodology/approach – This paper draws on semi-structured interview material and a focus group discussion about the educational experiences and aspirations of three mothers and six young women from the community. Further, interview materials were collected from two head teachers with Gypsy children in their schools and two Traveller Education Support Staff. Findings – This paper finds how educational “public” space is providing a place for girls and young women to think differently and even begin to challenge the gender regimes embedded within the “private” space of their communities. Originality/value – In line with the idea that space and place are fundamental in formulating gender relations, this paper frames this phenomenon within a socio-spatial context.
... However, research has detected a shift in attitudes, with an increasing number of GRT parents feeling that formal education is necessary in the modern world (Bhopal, 2004). The literature suggests this is likely due to two factors: n Increased mechanisation/automation reducing the need for traditional GRT occupations such as seasonal agricultural work, (Myers, McGee and Bhopal, 2010) n More positive relationships with mainstream communities developing over time alongside improvements in some schools' strategies for supporting GRT families (Levinson, 2015) GRT parents have recognised the growing importance ICT as key for their children to respond to 'an ever-changing labour market' (Padfield, 2005, p. 138) (Myers and Bhopal, 2016;Myers et al. 2010;). This attitude was reflected in our own research in which the many of the Gypsy and Traveller young people reported that their parents had particularly encouraged them to gain skills in this area: Discussions in our roundtable and interviews with Roma pupils also revealed that Roma families often value UK education due to the level of discrimination they experienced in their home countries where Roma children would often be sent to 'special schools'. ...
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This report explores why Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are underrepresented in higher education (HE), including the barriers that inhibit their success throughout compulsory education and the specific factors which reduce their participation HE. The report aims to provide educators and practitioners with a thorough review of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers’ underrepresentation in HE, focusing primarily on existing barriers while beginning to consider next steps and solutions for addressing these issues. The report draws together findings from: existing literature; a roundtable of practitioners, academics and members of Gypsy and Traveller communities; in depth interviews with practitioners and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students and graduates; as well as pupil focus groups with Roma pupils, Gypsy pupils and Irish Traveller pupils. The report considers six main questions: 1. How are ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller’ groups defined? 2. What are the current demographics of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups? 3. How do Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and young people perform in compulsory education? 4. How severe is the underrepresentation of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in HE? 5. What are the barriers to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils’ access to all levels of education? 6. What are the specific barriers to accessing HE faced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers?
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Despite the international commitment to Roma social inclusion from 2005 onwards, the overall situation has not significantly changed. In education, important achievements have been reached, mainly in terms of access to primary. Yet, Roma students still lag behind. This paper maps policy initiatives for Roma inclusion in European education systems, analyses remaining challenges and explores policy perspectives. It first describes European countries’ conceptualisation and categorisation of ethnic groups. In doing so, it differentiates colour-blind countries that prohibit diversity data and prioritise integrated approaches in policymaking, and countries that collect such data and use targeted approaches. This work then identifies initiatives aimed at improving Roma students’ inclusion and recurrent challenges, such as segregation in education and anti-Gypsyism. The few evaluations available indicate that best practices are those that (1) combine mainstream and targeted approaches; (2) are community-based, with a genuine participation of Roma; (3) are conscious of cultural disparities; and (4) adopt an intercultural approach. An OECD Education Working Papers Series publication.
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Since the 1990s an increasing body of genetic studies of Roma people has been conducted and used to understand their lives. This includes research on health issues such as genetic predispositions to obesity or high cholesterol levels and the migration of European Roma from the Indian subcontinent. Such work needs to be contextualised within the wide-ranging historical oppression of Roma people including their enslavement, the Holocaust, denial of human rights and a lack of access to education. Aligning genetics research to educational policy has often been problematic in the context of discredited, ‘race’ science; recently more nuanced arguments have promoted ‘post-genomic’ solutions, such as biosocial strategies, that address social justice issues. This article argues that an economy of knowledge emerges in the ‘postgenomic era’ that privileges predominantly White European, majority populations and this is particularly apparent in the context of the Roma. The promotion of educational solutions framed by genetics research underpins how cultural capital, in this case scientific knowledge and its framing within social theory such as Deleuzian assemblage will, in all likelihood, maintain the status quo for the Roma.
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Introduction Figure 1 The counter-Terrorism advertising campaign of London’s Metropolitan Police commodifies some everyday items such as mobile phones, computers, passports and credit cards as having the potential to sustain terrorist activities. The process of ascribing cultural values and symbolic meanings to some everyday technical gadgets objectifies and situates Terrorism into the everyday life. The police, in urging people to look out for ‘the unusual’ in their normal day-to-day lives, juxtapose the everyday with the unusual, where day-to-day consumption, routines and flows of human activity can seemingly house insidious and atavistic elements. This again is reiterated in the Met police press release: Terrorists live within our communities making their plans whilst doing everything they can to blend in, and trying not to raise suspicions about their activities. (MPA Website) The commodification of Terrorism through uncommon and everyday objects situates Terrorism as a phenomenon which occupies a liminal space within the everyday. It resides, breathes and co-exists within the taken-for-granted routines and objects of ‘the everyday’ where it has the potential to explode and disrupt without warning. Since 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings Terrorism has been narrated through the disruption of mobility, whether in mid-air or in the deep recesses of the Underground. The resonant thread of disruption to human mobility evokes a powerful meta-narrative where acts of Terrorism can halt human agency amidst the backdrop of the metropolis, which is often a metaphor for speed and accelerated activities. If globalisation and the interconnected nature of the world are understood through discourses of risk, Terrorism bears the same footprint in urban spaces of modernity, narrating the vulnerability of the human condition in an inter-linked world where ideological struggles and resistance are manifested through inexplicable violence and destruction of lives, where the everyday is suspended to embrace the unexpected. As a consequence ambient fear “saturates the social spaces of everyday life” (Hubbard 2). The commodification of Terrorism through everyday items of consumption inevitably creates an intertextuality with real and media events, which constantly corrode the security of the metropolis. Paddy Scannell alludes to a doubling of place in our mediated world where “public events now occur simultaneously in two different places; the place of the event itself and that in which it is watched and heard. The media then vacillates between the two sites and creates experiences of simultaneity, liveness and immediacy” (qtd. in Moores 22). The doubling of place through media constructs a pervasive environment of risk and fear. Mark Danner (qtd. in Bauman 106) points out that the most powerful weapon of the 9/11 terrorists was that innocuous and “most American of technological creations: the television set” which provided a global platform to constantly replay and remember the dreadful scenes of the day, enabling the terrorist to appear invincible and to narrate fear as ubiquitous and omnipresent. Philip Abrams argues that ‘big events’ (such as 9/11 and 7/7) do make a difference in the social world for such events function as a transformative device between the past and future, forcing society to alter or transform its perspectives. David Altheide points out that since September 11 and the ensuing war on terror, a new discourse of Terrorism has emerged as a way of expressing how the world has changed and defining a state of constant alert through a media logic and format that shapes the nature of discourse itself. Consequently, the intensity and centralisation of surveillance in Western countries increased dramatically, placing the emphasis on expanding the forms of the already existing range of surveillance processes and practices that circumscribe and help shape our social existence (Lyon, Terrorism 2). Normalisation of Surveillance The role of technologies, particularly information and communication technologies (ICTs), and other infrastructures to unevenly distribute access to the goods and services necessary for modern life, while facilitating data collection on and control of the public, are significant characteristics of modernity (Reiman; Graham and Marvin; Monahan). The embedding of technological surveillance into spaces and infrastructures not only augment social control but also redefine data as a form of capital which can be shared between public and private sectors (Gandy, Data Mining; O’Harrow; Monahan). The scale, complexity and limitations of omnipresent and omnipotent surveillance, nevertheless, offer room for both subversion as well as new forms of domination and oppression (Marx). In surveillance studies, Foucault’s analysis is often heavily employed to explain lines of continuity and change between earlier forms of surveillance and data assemblage and contemporary forms in the shape of closed-circuit television (CCTV) and other surveillance modes (Dee). It establishes the need to discern patterns of power and normalisation and the subliminal or obvious cultural codes and categories that emerge through these arrangements (Fopp; Lyon, Electronic; Norris and Armstrong). In their study of CCTV surveillance, Norris and Armstrong (cf. in Dee) point out that when added to the daily minutiae of surveillance, CCTV cameras in public spaces, along with other camera surveillance in work places, capture human beings on a database constantly. The normalisation of surveillance, particularly with reference to CCTV, the popularisation of surveillance through television formats such as ‘Big Brother’ (Dee), and the expansion of online platforms to publish private images, has created a contradictory, complex and contested nature of spatial and power relationships in society. The UK, for example, has the most developed system of both urban and public space cameras in the world and this growth of camera surveillance and, as Lyon (Surveillance) points out, this has been achieved with very little, if any, public debate as to their benefits or otherwise. There may now be as many as 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain (cf. Lyon, Surveillance). That is one for every fourteen people and a person can be captured on over 300 cameras every day. An estimated £500m of public money has been invested in CCTV infrastructure over the last decade but, according to a Home Office study, CCTV schemes that have been assessed had little overall effect on crime levels (Wood and Ball). In spatial terms, these statistics reiterate Foucault’s emphasis on the power economy of the unseen gaze. Michel Foucault in analysing the links between power, information and surveillance inspired by Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon, indicated that it is possible to sanction or reward an individual through the act of surveillance without their knowledge (155). It is this unseen and unknown gaze of surveillance that is fundamental to the exercise of power. The design and arrangement of buildings can be engineered so that the “surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action” (Foucault 201). Lyon (Terrorism), in tracing the trajectory of surveillance studies, points out that much of surveillance literature has focused on understanding it as a centralised bureaucratic relationship between the powerful and the governed. Invisible forms of surveillance have also been viewed as a class weapon in some societies. With the advancements in and proliferation of surveillance technologies as well as convergence with other technologies, Lyon argues that it is no longer feasible to view surveillance as a linear or centralised process. In our contemporary globalised world, there is a need to reconcile the dialectical strands that mediate surveillance as a process. In acknowledging this, Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have constructed surveillance as a rhizome that defies linearity to appropriate a more convoluted and malleable form where the coding of bodies and data can be enmeshed to produce intricate power relationships and hierarchies within societies. Latour draws on the notion of assemblage by propounding that data is amalgamated from scattered centres of calculation where these can range from state and commercial institutions to scientific laboratories which scrutinise data to conceive governance and control strategies. Both the Latourian and Deleuzian ideas of surveillance highlight the disparate arrays of people, technologies and organisations that become connected to make “surveillance assemblages” in contrast to the static, unidirectional Panopticon metaphor (Ball, “Organization” 93). In a similar vein, Gandy (Panoptic) infers that it is misleading to assume that surveillance in practice is as complete and totalising as the Panoptic ideal type would have us believe. Co-optation of Millions The Metropolitan Police’s counter-Terrorism strategy seeks to co-opt millions where the corporeal body can complement the landscape of technological surveillance that already co-exists within modernity. In its press release, the role of civilian bodies in ensuring security of the city is stressed; Keeping Londoners safe from Terrorism is not a job solely for governments, security services or police. If we are to make London the safest major city in the world, we must mobilise against Terrorism not only the resources of the state, but also the active support of the millions of people who live and work in the capita. (MPA Website). Surveillance is increasingly simulated through the millions of corporeal entities where seeing in advance is the goal even before technology records and codes these images (William). Bodies understand and code risk and images through the cultural narratives which circulate in society. Compared to CCTV technology images, which require cultural and political interpretations and interventions, bodies as surveillance organisms implicitly code other bodies and activities. The travel bag in the Metropolitan Police poster reinforces the images of the 7/7 bombers and the renewed attempts to bomb the London Underground on the 21st of July. It reiterates the CCTV footage revealing images of the bombers wearing rucksacks. The image of the rucksack both embodies the everyday as well as the potential for evil in everyday objects. It also inevitably reproduces the cultural biases and prejudices where the rucksack is subliminally associated with a specific type of body. The rucksack in these terms is a laden image which symbolically captures the context and culture of risk discourses in society. The co-optation of the population as a surveillance entity also recasts new forms of social responsibility within the democratic polity, where privacy is increasingly mediated by the greater need to monitor, trace and record the activities of one another. Nikolas Rose, in discussing the increasing ‘responsibilisation’ of individuals in modern societies, describes the process in which the individual accepts responsibility for personal actions across a wide range of fields of social and economic activity as in the choice of diet, savings and pension arrangements, health care decisions and choices, home security measures and personal investment choices (qtd. in Dee). While surveillance in individualistic terms is often viewed as a threat to privacy, Rose argues that the state of ‘advanced liberalism’ within modernity and post-modernity requires considerable degrees of self-governance, regulation and surveillance whereby the individual is constructed both as a ‘new citizen’ and a key site of self management. By co-opting and recasting the role of the citizen in the age of Terrorism, the citizen to a degree accepts responsibility for both surveillance and security. In our sociological imagination the body is constructed both as lived as well as a social object. Erving Goffman uses the word ‘umwelt’ to stress that human embodiment is central to the constitution of the social world. Goffman defines ‘umwelt’ as “the region around an individual from which signs of alarm can come” and employs it to capture how people as social actors perceive and manage their settings when interacting in public places (252). Goffman’s ‘umwelt’ can be traced to Immanuel Kant’s idea that it is the a priori categories of space and time that make it possible for a subject to perceive a world (Umiker-Sebeok; qtd. in Ball, “Organization”). Anthony Giddens adapted the term Umwelt to refer to “a phenomenal world with which the individual is routinely ‘in touch’ in respect of potential dangers and alarms which then formed a core of (accomplished) normalcy with which individuals and groups surround themselves” (244). Benjamin Smith, in considering the body as an integral component of the link between our consciousness and our material world, observes that the body is continuously inscribed by culture. These inscriptions, he argues, encompass a wide range of cultural practices and will imply knowledge of a variety of social constructs. The inscribing of the body will produce cultural meanings as well as create forms of subjectivity while locating and situating the body within a cultural matrix (Smith). Drawing on Derrida’s work, Pugliese employs the term ‘Somatechnics’ to conceptualise the body as a culturally intelligible construct and to address the techniques in and through which the body is formed and transformed (qtd. in Osuri). These techniques can encompass signification systems such as race and gender and equally technologies which mediate our sense of reality. These technologies of thinking, seeing, hearing, signifying, visualising and positioning produce the very conditions for the cultural intelligibility of the body (Osuri). The body is then continuously inscribed and interpreted through mediated signifying systems. Similarly, Hayles, while not intending to impose a Cartesian dichotomy between the physical body and its cognitive presence, contends that the use and interactions with technology incorporate the body as a material entity but it also equally inscribes it by marking, recording and tracing its actions in various terrains. According to Gayatri Spivak (qtd. in Ball, “Organization”) new habits and experiences are embedded into the corporeal entity which then mediates its reactions and responses to the social world. This means one’s body is not completely one’s own and the presence of ideological forces or influences then inscribe the body with meanings, codes and cultural values. In our modern condition, the body and data are intimately and intricately bound. Outside the home, it is difficult for the body to avoid entering into relationships that produce electronic personal data (Stalder). According to Felix Stalder our physical bodies are shadowed by a ‘data body’ which follows the physical body of the consuming citizen and sometimes precedes it by constructing the individual through data (12). Before we arrive somewhere, we have already been measured and classified. Thus, upon arrival, the citizen will be treated according to the criteria ‘connected with the profile that represents us’ (Gandy, Panoptic; William). Following September 11, Lyon (Terrorism) reveals that surveillance data from a myriad of sources, such as supermarkets, motels, traffic control points, credit card transactions records and so on, was used to trace the activities of terrorists in the days and hours before their attacks, confirming that the body leaves data traces and trails. Surveillance works by abstracting bodies from places and splitting them into flows to be reassembled as virtual data-doubles, and in the process can replicate hierarchies and centralise power (Lyon, Terrorism). Mike Dee points out that the nature of surveillance taking place in modern societies is complex and far-reaching and in many ways insidious as surveillance needs to be situated within the broadest context of everyday human acts whether it is shopping with loyalty cards or paying utility bills. Physical vulnerability of the body becomes more complex in the time-space distanciated surveillance systems to which the body has become increasingly exposed. As such, each transaction – whether it be a phone call, credit card transaction, or Internet search – leaves a ‘data trail’ linkable to an individual person or place. Haggerty and Ericson, drawing from Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the assemblage, describe the convergence and spread of data-gathering systems between different social domains and multiple levels (qtd. in Hier). They argue that the target of the generic ‘surveillance assemblage’ is the human body, which is broken into a series of data flows on which surveillance process is based. The thrust of the focus is the data individuals can yield and the categories to which they can contribute. These are then reapplied to the body. In this sense, surveillance is rhizomatic for it is diverse and connected to an underlying, invisible infrastructure which concerns interconnected technologies in multiple contexts (Ball, “Elements”). The co-opted body in the schema of counter-Terrorism enters a power arrangement where it constitutes both the unseen gaze as well as the data that will be implicated and captured in this arrangement. It is capable of producing surveillance data for those in power while creating new data through its transactions and movements in its everyday life. The body is unequivocally constructed through this data and is also entrapped by it in terms of representation and categorisation. The corporeal body is therefore part of the machinery of surveillance while being vulnerable to its discriminatory powers of categorisation and victimisation. As Hannah Arendt (qtd. in Bauman 91) had warned, “we terrestrial creatures bidding for cosmic significance will shortly be unable to comprehend and articulate the things we are capable of doing” Arendt’s caution conveys the complexity, vulnerability as well as the complicity of the human condition in the surveillance society. Equally it exemplifies how the corporeal body can be co-opted as a surveillance entity sustaining a new ‘banality’ (Arendt) in the machinery of surveillance. Social Consequences of Surveillance Lyon (Terrorism) observed that the events of 9/11 and 7/7 in the UK have inevitably become a prism through which aspects of social structure and processes may be viewed. This prism helps to illuminate the already existing vast range of surveillance practices and processes that touch everyday life in so-called information societies. As Lyon (Terrorism) points out surveillance is always ambiguous and can encompass genuine benefits and plausible rationales as well as palpable disadvantages. There are elements of representation to consider in terms of how surveillance technologies can re-present data that are collected at source or gathered from another technological medium, and these representations bring different meanings and enable different interpretations of life and surveillance (Ball, “Elements”). As such surveillance needs to be viewed in a number of ways: practice, knowledge and protection from threat. As data can be manipulated and interpreted according to cultural values and norms it reflects the inevitability of power relations to forge its identity in a surveillance society. In this sense, Ball (“Elements”) concludes surveillance practices capture and create different versions of life as lived by surveilled subjects. She refers to actors within the surveilled domain as ‘intermediaries’, where meaning is inscribed, where technologies re-present information, where power/resistance operates, and where networks are bound together to sometimes distort as well as reiterate patterns of hegemony (“Elements” 93). While surveillance is often connected with technology, it does not however determine nor decide how we code or employ our data. New technologies rarely enter passive environments of total inequality for they become enmeshed in complex pre-existing power and value systems (Marx). With surveillance there is an emphasis on the classificatory powers in our contemporary world “as persons and groups are often risk-profiled in the commercial sphere which rates their social contributions and sorts them into systems” (Lyon, Terrorism 2). Lyon (Terrorism) contends that the surveillance society is one that is organised and structured using surveillance-based techniques recorded by technologies, on behalf of the organisations and governments that structure our society. This information is then sorted, sifted and categorised and used as a basis for decisions which affect our life chances (Wood and Ball). The emergence of pervasive, automated and discriminatory mechanisms for risk profiling and social categorising constitute a significant mechanism for reproducing and reinforcing social, economic and cultural divisions in information societies. Such automated categorisation, Lyon (Terrorism) warns, has consequences for everyone especially in face of the new anti-terror measures enacted after September 11. In tandem with this, Bauman points out that a few suicidal murderers on the loose will be quite enough to recycle thousands of innocents into the “usual suspects”. In no time, a few iniquitous individual choices will be reprocessed into the attributes of a “category”; a category easily recognisable by, for instance, a suspiciously dark skin or a suspiciously bulky rucksack* *the kind of object which CCTV cameras are designed to note and passers-by are told to be vigilant about. And passers-by are keen to oblige. Since the terrorist atrocities on the London Underground, the volume of incidents classified as “racist attacks” rose sharply around the country. (122; emphasis added) Bauman, drawing on Lyon, asserts that the understandable desire for security combined with the pressure to adopt different kind of systems “will create a culture of control that will colonise more areas of life with or without the consent of the citizen” (123). This means that the inhabitants of the urban space whether a citizen, worker or consumer who has no terrorist ambitions whatsoever will discover that their opportunities are more circumscribed by the subject positions or categories which are imposed on them. Bauman cautions that for some these categories may be extremely prejudicial, restricting them from consumer choices because of credit ratings, or more insidiously, relegating them to second-class status because of their colour or ethnic background (124). Joseph Pugliese, in linking visual regimes of racial profiling and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the aftermath of 7/7 bombings in London, suggests that the discursive relations of power and visuality are inextricably bound. Pugliese argues that racial profiling creates a regime of visuality which fundamentally inscribes our physiology of perceptions with stereotypical images. He applies this analogy to Menzes running down the platform in which the retina transforms him into the “hallucinogenic figure of an Asian Terrorist” (Pugliese 8). With globalisation and the proliferation of ICTs, borders and boundaries are no longer sacrosanct and as such risks are managed by enacting ‘smart borders’ through new technologies, with huge databases behind the scenes processing information about individuals and their journeys through the profiling of body parts with, for example, iris scans (Wood and Ball 31). Such body profiling technologies are used to create watch lists of dangerous passengers or identity groups who might be of greater ‘risk’. The body in a surveillance society can be dissected into parts and profiled and coded through technology. These disparate codings of body parts can be assembled (or selectively omitted) to construct and represent whole bodies in our information society to ascertain risk. The selection and circulation of knowledge will also determine who gets slotted into the various categories that a surveillance society creates. Conclusion When the corporeal body is subsumed into a web of surveillance it often raises questions about the deterministic nature of technology. The question is a long-standing one in our modern consciousness. We are apprehensive about according technology too much power and yet it is implicated in the contemporary power relationships where it is suspended amidst human motive, agency and anxiety. The emergence of surveillance societies, the co-optation of bodies in surveillance schemas, as well as the construction of the body through data in everyday transactions, conveys both the vulnerabilities of the human condition as well as its complicity in maintaining the power arrangements in society. Bauman, in citing Jacques Ellul and Hannah Arendt, points out that we suffer a ‘moral lag’ in so far as technology and society are concerned, for often we ruminate on the consequences of our actions and motives only as afterthoughts without realising at this point of existence that the “actions we take are most commonly prompted by the resources (including technology) at our disposal” (91). References Abrams, Philip. Historical Sociology. Shepton Mallet, UK: Open Books, 1982. Altheide, David. “Consuming Terrorism.” Symbolic Interaction 27.3 (2004): 289-308. Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. London: Faber & Faber, 1963. Bauman, Zygmunt. Liquid Fear. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2006. Ball, Kristie. “Elements of Surveillance: A New Framework and Future Research Direction.” Information, Communication and Society 5.4 (2002): 573-90 ———. “Organization, Surveillance and the Body: Towards a Politics of Resistance.” Organization 12 (2005): 89-108. Dee, Mike. “The New Citizenship of the Risk and Surveillance Society – From a Citizenship of Hope to a Citizenship of Fear?” Paper Presented to the Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia, 22 Nov. 2002. 14 April 2007 http://eprints.qut.edu.au/archive/00005508/02/5508.pdf>. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987. Fopp, Rodney. “Increasing the Potential for Gaze, Surveillance and Normalization: The Transformation of an Australian Policy for People and Homeless.” Surveillance and Society 1.1 (2002): 48-65. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Allen Lane, 1977. Giddens, Anthony. Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991. Gandy, Oscar. The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1997. ———. “Data Mining and Surveillance in the Post 9/11 Environment.” The Intensification of Surveillance: Crime, Terrorism and War in the Information Age. Eds. Kristie Ball and Frank Webster. Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2003. Goffman, Erving. Relations in Public. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971. Graham, Stephen, and Simon Marvin. Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition. New York: Routledge, 2001. Hier, Sean. “Probing Surveillance Assemblage: On the Dialectics of Surveillance Practices as Process of Social Control.” Surveillance and Society 1.3 (2003): 399-411. Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999. Hubbard, Phil. “Fear and Loathing at the Multiplex: Everyday Anxiety in the Post-Industrial City.” Capital & Class 80 (2003). Latour, Bruno. Science in Action. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1987 Lyon, David. The Electronic Eye – The Rise of Surveillance Society. Oxford: Polity Press, 1994. ———. “Terrorism and Surveillance: Security, Freedom and Justice after September 11 2001.” Privacy Lecture Series, Queens University, 12 Nov 2001. 16 April 2007 http://privacy.openflows.org/lyon_paper.html>. ———. “Surveillance Studies: Understanding Visibility, Mobility and the Phonetic Fix.” Surveillance and Society 1.1 (2002): 1-7. Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA). “Counter Terrorism: The London Debate.” Press Release. 21 June 2006. 18 April 2007 http://www.mpa.gov.uk.access/issues/comeng/Terrorism.htm>. Pugliese, Joseph. “Asymmetries of Terror: Visual Regimes of Racial Profiling and the Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the Context of the War in Iraq.” Borderlands 5.1 (2006). 30 May 2007 http://www.borderlandsejournal.adelaide.edu.au/vol15no1_2006/ pugliese.htm>. Marx, Gary. “A Tack in the Shoe: Neutralizing and Resisting the New Surveillance.” Journal of Social Issues 59.2 (2003). 18 April 2007 http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/tack.html>. Moores, Shaun. “Doubling of Place.” Mediaspace: Place Scale and Culture in a Media Age. Eds. Nick Couldry and Anna McCarthy. Routledge, London, 2004. Monahan, Teri, ed. Surveillance and Security: Technological Politics and Power in Everyday Life. Routledge: London, 2006. Norris, Clive, and Gary Armstrong. The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV. Oxford: Berg, 1999. O’Harrow, Robert. No Place to Hide. New York: Free Press, 2005. Osuri, Goldie. “Media Necropower: Australian Media Reception and the Somatechnics of Mamdouh Habib.” Borderlands 5.1 (2006). 30 May 2007 http://www.borderlandsejournal.adelaide.edu.au/vol5no1_2006 osuri_necropower.htm>. Rose, Nikolas. “Government and Control.” British Journal of Criminology 40 (2000): 321–399. Scannell, Paddy. Radio, Television and Modern Life. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. Smith, Benjamin. “In What Ways, and for What Reasons, Do We Inscribe Our Bodies?” 15 Nov. 1998. 30 May 2007 http:www.bmezine.com/ritual/981115/Whatways.html>. Stalder, Felix. “Privacy Is Not the Antidote to Surveillance.” Surveillance and Society 1.1 (2002): 120-124. Umiker-Sebeok, Jean. “Power and the Construction of Gendered Spaces.” Indiana University-Bloomington. 14 April 2007 http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/umikerse/papers/power.html>. William, Bogard. The Simulation of Surveillance: Hypercontrol in Telematic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. Wood, Kristie, and David M. Ball, eds. “A Report on the Surveillance Society.” Surveillance Studies Network, UK, Sep. 2006. 14 April 2007 http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/data_protection/ practical_application/surveillance_society_full_report_2006.pdf>. Citation reference for this article MLA Style Ibrahim, Yasmin. "Commodifying Terrorism: Body, Surveillance and the Everyday." M/C Journal 10.3 (2007). echo date('d M. Y'); ?> <http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0706/05-ibrahim.php>. APA Style Ibrahim, Y. (Jun. 2007) "Commodifying Terrorism: Body, Surveillance and the Everyday," M/C Journal, 10(3). Retrieved echo date('d M. Y'); ?> from <http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0706/05-ibrahim.php>.
Conference Paper
This paper examines the position of Gypsy and Traveller groups in society, focusing specifically on findings from research carried out in London in 2004-2006. It examines data from the book, Insiders, Outsiders and Others: Gypsies and Identity (with M. Myers, 2008).
Book
Book synopsis: 'A minority and the state' is a much needed history of Britain's travelling communities in the twentieth century, drawing together detailed archival research at local and national level to explore the impact of state and legislative developments on Travellers, as well as their experience of missions, education, war and welfare. It also covers legal developments affecting Travellers and crucially argues that their history must not be dealt with in isolation but as part of a wider history of British minoritiesll. It will be of interest to scholars and students concerned with minority groups, the welfare state and the expansion of government, as well as general readers and practitioners working with Travellers.
Book
This is an account of the shaping of Gypsy identity in the UK, contextualised in terms of recent and historic tendencies to either misrepresent or misrecognise Gypsy culture. The book suggests that understandings of Gypsy culture are enhanced by understandings of how strangers are recognised within society and by understandings of how 'white' culture differentiates itself. It examines how multi-cultural society reproduces many of the same aspects of misrecognition and misrepresentation that might be more readily equated with less liberal regimes.
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The attribution of low literacy levels among Gypsy children to difficulties of access to schools neglects underlying sociocultural explanations. There has been little analysis in reports/studies of Gypsy attitudes toward literacy, nor of outcomes of acquisition. Informed by new literacy theory and by the discourse of previous ethnographic studies, and by acculturation theories, this article draws on findings from an ethnographic study of English Gypsies (1996–2000), and data from a follow-up study, involving original and additional participants (2005–2006). The article explores attitudes across age groups, highlighting social reasons for resistance to literacy, and argues that policy makers should consider effects on group membership and ways in which formal literacy can constitute a mechanism for disempowerment.
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The American Diabetes Association currently recommends that all youth with type 1 diabetes over the age of 7 years follow a plan of intensive management. The purpose of this study was to describe stressors and self-care challenges reported by adolescents with type 1 diabetes who were undergoing initiation of intensive management. Subjects described initiation of intensive management as complicating the dilemmas they faced. The importance of individualized and nonjudgmental care from parents and health care providers was stressed. This study supports development of health care relationships and environments that are teen focused not merely disease-centered and embrace exploring options with the teen that will enhance positive outcomes.