“Village-making in the city”: Communities of Roma migrants and anti-Gypsyism in Geneva

  • Monica Battaglini Haute École de Travail Social, Genève, Switzerland
  • Iulia Hasdeu Haute École de Travail Social, Genève, Switzerland


The present article, developed out of a research project which lasted several years, analyses the tensions between, on one side, Romanian Roma back-and-forth migrants, and on the other side, Geneva's police. In the last decade, these tensions are mostly linked to begging (an activity which provides small daily incomes to the majority of the 250 Romanian Roma living in the city), that is since 2007 a crime. These tensions between police officers and Roma are part of a wider European punishing-the-poor urban governance model, and bring to the exclusion of other actors from the public action. Through the interaction between the moral and symbolic violence linked to police intervention, the high visibility of Roma in public place and their reconnection with previous experiences, such tensions re-create the ethnic divide between Roma and non-Roma. As a consequence, Roma who have their roots in rural and peri-urban Transylvania use their “village making” practices to perform a symbolic and social appropriation of the town notwithstanding “anti-Gypsy” repression. The “village making” of the Roma becomes thus a specific form of response in a context  (Geneva and more generally Switzerland) where the occupation of urban and peri-urban territory through the “camps” experienced in other European towns does not exist.


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Thematic Section: Antiziganisms: Ethnographic Engagements in Europe