June is Gypsy, Roma, & Traveller History Month!

I should have made this post ages ago since it’s halfway through the month, but, hooray! I’ve been adventuring a lot, first in Ireland, then Mexico, then the Florida Keys. But now I’m back, and this is month is dedicated to celebrating Romani and Traveller culture and remembering history. It feels like the best way to honor the month is to post a small pastiche of articles that touch on the subject from around the web. I’ll keep the posts coming, this is just a starter, and I have a few articles coming out on the topic soon too. The hashtag I’ve been using on Twitter is #RomaTravellerHistoryMonth and my handle is @JSReidy, if you want to follow. There’s also https://www.facebook.com/endromaniexploitation to consider.


1. Settela Steinbach’s image was used as the haunting symbol of the Jewish Holocaust for a long time before it was discovered that Settela was a Sinti Romani girl. Read about her life, journey, and remember her in Romedia’s post, SETTELA STEINBACH, A NEARLY-FORGOTTEN SINTI-ROMA STORY FROM WWII


Still from the “Westerbork film” showing Settela peeking outside through the crack. Courtesy of the WWII Image Bank-   National Institute for War Documentation.

Still from the “Westerbork film” showing Settela peeking outside through the crack. Courtesy of the WWII Image Bank- National Institute for War Documentation.

2. http://www.imninalu.net/ has an interesting list of past and present “Famous Gypsies”

3. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published, “Teaching of the Roma and Sinti genocide is crucial to addressing discrimination, say participants at OSCE meeting,”


The Romani Library Project aims to promote and make available across Europe modern literature of the Roma culture. Its origins lie in a collaboration between expert academic institutions, European publishers with an intercultural perspective, Roma cultural organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations with experience in Romani publishing.

Arts and Culture:

1. Opre Roma – Roma, Stand up! A feature documentary film about Roma rappers and an emerging underground Roma hip hop scene in the Balkans.

2. Flamenco is a Gitano dance, and this performance charts its Indian roots to its Spanish birth.

3. Gypsy Fever, the London-based Balkan Romani music and Manouche Jazz fusion group tears it up with a swing-rock beat.

Gypsy Fever. Image Source: http://quecumbar.co.uk/

Gypsy Fever. Image Source: http://quecumbar.co.uk/

4. Gypsy artist Lita Cabellut “The Starcatchers” opening night at Opera Gallery Seoul with fashion designer Lie Sang Bong

Recent News:

Tania Leontieff just became Israel’s first Romani police officer.

Articles on ethnicity and culture:

Filip Borev, author of the blog Pipopotamus, writes in “What is in a word? ‘Gypsy’: pride or prejudice” about why he identifies as Gypsy, not a Rom, and why that’s ok. In another post, “International Romani Day: and why this year will be my last,” he explains the problems with a “Roma nation” and the trouble with the Romani Rights movement being led by people outside of the culture.


Are you familiar with those travel blogs that tell you “how to spot a Gypsy” and continue on with a bunch of racist nonsense under the guise of “educating” tourists? If not, lucky you. I wrote a satirical guide in that vein for Bathshebas called “American Gypsies Travelling in Europe: how to recognize white people.” Hold onto your babies!



Blog 4: The Function of Romani Characters in film


“In children’s literature, in Britain perhaps even more than in the United States, Romanies turn up with some frequency — never as charac­ters who happen incidentally also to be Gypsies, but because they are Gypsies, and because they serve a specific purpose. This purpose has, broadly speaking, three manifestations: the Gypsy as liar and thief either of property or (especially) of non-Romani children; the Gypsy as witch or caster of spells; and the Gypsy as romantic figure. In order to understand why the Romani should find him or herself in this mainly unflattering role, it is necessary first of all to understand what a Gypsy really is, and what historical circumstances have led to the emergence of so deeply-rooted a fictional image.” –Hancock, “The Origin and Function of the Gypsy Image in Children’s Literature”

For this week’s blog post, read Ian Hancock’s The Origin and Function of the Gypsy Image in Children’s Literature. While the article deals specifically with children’s literature, we will be using his theory of “function” to frame our research paper about the function of Romani characters in film. Once you chose your film, first you need to determine whether or not the Romani characters are “necessarily” Gypsy or “incidentally.” Hancock shows that when a character is “necessarily” Gypsy, his or her role in the narrative fulfills a purpose or function that rests on Gypsy stereotypes. This brings us back to our fiction unit and the complex character stories we wrote–the best way to avoid reductive and/or dehumanizing stereotypes about any group of people is to allow the characters to be complex.


We see “functional” characters of different ethnicities in a lot of different stories, and though women are technically the majority, population-wise, in a patriarchal culture such as ours, women are frequently represented as functional characters as well. In class, we’ve discussed some stereotypes about men and women and the ways that they are limiting. While men are made victims of gender stereotyping by the media, there are dramatically more men represented than women in film, fiction, TV, etc., in general and as central and complex characters. In mainstream media, women and minorities often appear as token characters in an all white, straight male cast, and are often stereotypical.


So for the blog post, in addition to Hancock’s article, watch these videos and take a look at the chart below:

Tokenism, tropes, and the Smurfette Principle

The Bechdel Test

The chart: Women with speaking roles are more likely to be naked?

Chose one question to answer using specific examples and supporting your points with examples from Hancock, the Feminist Frequency videos, and the chart.

1. How do industry inequality and gender bias in awards relate to the portrayal of women in films and what does the Bechdel Test do to measure that portrayal? How could this help us understand and gauge Romani representation and portrayal in the media?

2. What are tokensism, the Smurfette Principle, and “necessarily Gypsy characters” (or necessarily male, female, Black, Asian, etc. characters) and why are they especially problematic in children’s literature/films?