The uses of history: Invoking the past in contemporary debates about Roma migration
Celia Donert & Eve Rosenhaft
University of Liverpool
In this paper we will ask how historians of twentieth-century Europe might contribute to contemporary understandings of Romani migration and mobility. In particular, we will explore how historically informed scholarship might be brought into dialogue with the concerns of advocacy organisations and policy makers. We will propose three tentative approaches to this question. First and perhaps most obvious is the need to place Romani mobility itself in historical perspective, showing how surprisingly durable preconceptions about nomadism and itinerancy continue to overshadow more nuanced understandings of the ‘ordinary’ migration of the Roma. The second approach is to show how the history of Roma migration is itself tied up with the historical evolution of legal concepts – such as the ‘nomad’, ‘refugee’ or ‘migrant’ – that have been used by governments and international organisations to categorise and control mobility over the course of the twentieth century. The third and final approach is to ask how, in practical terms, historians might cooperate with Roma policy makers and advocacy organisations to co-produce historical scholarship that challenges the preconceptions of Roma as ‘needy subjects’ that frequently underpin national and European policies aimed at ‘controlling’ Roma migration and mobility.