The Nomad, The Squatter and the State: Roma Racialization and Spatial Politics in Italy

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What happens when Roma people move from the space of an informal settlement to that of a squat of a housing rights movement? In this article, which is based on the analysis of housing squats involving Roma people in the Italian capital city of Rome, I argue that this move is more than a housing solution: it is a new form of contentious and aesthetic politics. In Rome approximately 7,000 Roma face extreme housing deprivation and segregation, in both official and makeshift camps. While different associations have for many years advocated Roma housing inclusion through a minority and human‐rights framework, in the aftermath of the 2007/2008 economic crisis an increasing number of Roma have moved to squats set up by social movement activists. The aim of the article is threefold. First, it illustrates the collective action repertoire of Roma‐squatting. Secondly, it considers its aesthetic politics, which through spatial dislocation unsettles the racializing discourse endorsed by policymakers that underpins the segregation of the Roma. Finally, this article unpacks the process of politicization of Roma‐squatting and discusses the urban frames and material resources that consolidate this transformation through a comparison of four housing squats that Roma people joined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)930-946
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number5
Early online date16 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • Italy
  • Roma; squatting movement
  • Rome
  • aesthetics
  • contentious politics
  • economic crisis
  • ethnic categorization
  • housing rights
  • nomadism
  • politicization
  • right to the city


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