Roma have long been cast as the archetypical ‘other’ by western society and remain, as Edward Said put it, the only group about which anything can be said “without challenge or demurral”. Said’s book Orientalism examined attitudes towards the Islamic world, but many of his ideas extend to these ʻstrangers withinʼ. Roma too have been reduced to stereotypes – the rustic bow-topped wagon, teen brides in big dresses, and, in the case of the Eastern European Roma now moving to the UK and other western countries, beggars, thieves or benefits scroungers.
I have written about the visual representation of Roma people in this research paper, and this piece written for Soros by photographer Ed Kashi hits the nail on the head in so many ways. This is not an abstract argument: over recent months I have been fighting a battle to protect the integrity of my Roma work and to stop it being taken out of context (see above screen-grab). To find out more please click here. These are exactly the kinds of issues that this project aims to address.