The title of this blog, gypsyrepresent, is meant to reclaim the word Gypsy, the ethnic slur for the Romani people. This word has been used to marginalize and insult the ethnic Romani people, and it inaccurately defines us, but it continues to be the most persistently-used term. I’m trying to take that fact and use it for good.
I am a teacher at Florida State University, and this blog is for the class I teach, “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves: Writing Creatively About Romani Culture.” I am of Romani decent and grew up with a mix of Romani culture and gadje culture, which has placed me on the threshold of these two cultures that are so often at odds. In this class, I hope to work with my students to open a discussion about the dangers of antigypsism and its many manifestations in popular culture through activist-writing, as well as to write about the reality of Romani culture through prose and poetry. This blog is where I set my students blog prompts and ask them to tell me what they see. Often we will discuss misrepresentation, racism, exoticism, romanticism, and human rights issue because unfortunately these problems are inextricable tied up with our culture. Romani people are oppressed and wounded by misrepresentations, and while we have our own rich and varied culture, these wounds have influenced our culture both historically and presently. I also hope to highlight the many manifestations of Romani culture: arts, writing, music, traditions, language, and stories. As a class, we will read Romani poetry and write poetry in response. We will learn Romani stories and write stories in response. My students come from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, and the goal is not to assume Romani voices or appropriate them: the goal is immerse ourselves in Romani arts and culture and draw inspiration from these artists and writers. I believe that artwork expresses some aspect of the human condition, and as people and writers, we can make connections through art. For me, that is the true beauty of culture.