The Nomad, the Squatter, and the State: Roma Racialization and Spatial Politics in Italy

Gaja Maestri, Aston University

Wednesday 23 October, 3.30-4.30pm, MB231

This presentation discusses what happens when the Roma move from the space of the informal settlement to that of the squat of housing right movements. Based on the analysis of housing squats involving Roma people in the Italian capital city, I argue that this move is more than a mere housing solution: it is a new form of contentious and aesthetic politics. In Rome approximately 7,000 Roma face extreme housing deprivation and segregation, living in both official and makeshift camps. While different associations have for many years advocated Roma housing inclusion through a minority and human rights framework, in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 economic crisis an increasing number of Roma have moved to squats set up by social movement activists. In this presentation I will illustrates the collective action repertoire of Roma-squatting and its aesthetic politics, which through spatial dislocation unsettles the racializing discourse endorsed by policymakers. Finally, through a comparison of four housing squats that were joined by Roma people, I will unpack the process of politicization of Roma-squatting and discuss the urban frames and material resources that consolidate this transformation.