Roma collecting metal and waste materials in Rome: Legal vacuum, informal economy, anti-Gypsyism

  • Cristina Santilli Laboratorio Urbano di Antropologia Applicata (LUAA), Roma, Italy


This paper analyzes how the economic activities of “campi” dwellers, linked to recollection and recycling of scrap material, are interpreted as informal and illegal by the actors involved in the applied research. The data emerge from ethnographic fieldwork carried on at a Local Police office in Rome, combined with textual analysis of administrative and technical documents. The analysis highlights the essential role of the context and of the prevailing sociopolitical discourse, deeply permeated by a constant criminalization of Romani families. In fact, the ambiguous and contradictory legislative framework risks exposing the “Roma in the camps” to double discrimination: both because they conduct activities that are not clearly regulated, and because they belong to a social category which already experiences discrimination. The article also illustrates how the methodology of intervention, based on the cooperation between the author and the Local Police office, has generated a change of perception within the police staff. It shows that the knowledge produced by research can be used as a tool to influence the context of intervention and to modify the decisional process of the concerned institutions.

How to Cite
Santilli, C. (2017) “Roma collecting metal and waste materials in Rome: Legal vacuum, informal economy, anti-Gypsyism”, Anuac, 6(1), pp. 141-163. doi: 10.7340/anuac2239-625X-2929.
Thematic Section: Antiziganisms: Ethnographic Engagements in Europe