Angela has done extensive work and research, both with and on the nomad community in Rome – the Rom or Roma people, and I talked to her.
Name: Angela Tullio
Where are you from? Rome.
Where was the last restaurant in which you ate? A great restaurant in Campagna, they grow their own vegetables and meat, and they cook it all on the grill, amazing!
Which was the last pub you frequented in Rome? San Calisto in Trastevere.
What was your field of study in university? Social sciences.
What was the topic and theme of your thesis? Gender equality and human development in the Roma community: the case of housing conditions.
Do you think that the social situation is similar in other cities of Italy, or is Rome a particular case? Similar in other cities.
You have done much work with the Rom community in Rome, can you give us an overview of what you discovered through your studies and in-field research? I found out that there is no one ‘truth’ about the Rom. There are several, very different communities, with different origins, multiple cultural backgrounds, all living in varied conditions. People should stop talking about ‘Rom,’ a word that holds/contains millions of PEOPLE living very distinct lives. I started researching the Roma because I was curious, and determined to understand. But the only thing I understood is that the reality is too varied to be understood and wrapped in categories.
What are some of the stereotypes and clichés that surround the Rom community? Many people, something like 80% of non-Rom people, think that the Rom want to live in nomad camps. They think that the Rom do not want to work because of their ‘culture.’ This 80% also thinks the Rom are not willing to be included in society at large, and are even reluctant to send their own Rom children to school. Furthermore, many people think that all of the Rom are thieves or beggars. The reaction I mostly received while conducting research has been ‘Angela, were you not afraid to go by yourself in the Rom camps? Wasn’t it dangerous? I don’t like the Roma people, aren’t they all criminals?’
What has your research shown about the validity of these stereotypes? My research focused on issues of gender equality, employment, schooling, and social inclusion- all through the scope of housing conditions. I found that the stereotypes may be true in some cases, but their validity is only due to the material condition in which the Rom live. In other words, it is not innate in the ‘gypsy culture.’
What can we do to help the Rom community? I always urge people to go to the nomad camps, in order to better understand what it means to live excluded from the rest of society. To understand what it is like to share a bathroom with 30 people and to live in shacks. But above all, I invite people to go to such places in order to meet the Roma, to talk with them, to realize that they are indeed people, and just like every other community, there are pleasant people, and disagreeable people.
If you could send a message out to all of Rome, or Italy, regarding the Rom community, what would it be? Before talking about the Rom, think first if you have ever spoken to a someone from that community.
There you have it: whether we are living in Rome, or just passing through, it’s important to know the culture and situation of all the ‘residents’ of Rome, and not just the Italians.