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Travelling into history: the case of Swedish Roma

Conference contribution
Authors Ingrid Martins Holmberg
Published in PECSRL 2014, 8–12 September 2014, Gothenburg and Mariestad, Sweden,
Pages 193-194
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Conservation
Pages 193-194
Language en
Keywords Heritage management, Roma, places
Subject categories Human Geography, Settlement studies, Cultural Studies


Although celebrating their five hundred years in Sweden in 2012, there has been very little recognition of the Roma’s corporeal long-term presence on Swedish grounds. There are severe difficulties in reconstructing the Roma’s historical presence in Sweden, not at least because of their persistent travelling (mostly forced). Leaving aside here the issue of a parching and well documented anti-romanism that permeates most accounts of the Roma’s history, this paper will present a study of some interesting contemporary efforts to gain new knowledge about the Romas’ historical places in Sweden: projects run by the official state heritage sector during the last years. The paper will present what has become known of Roma historical places, itineraries, travelling and locations in Sweden trough these projects, and also which are the particular conditions, discourses and ambitions within the official heritage sector that have promoted and facilitated these projects. The paper puts the findings in relation to the spatial concepts territoriality, place-making and mobility, but goes on to discuss them from foucauldian notions of knowledge-power. According to the AHD theory (Smith), ‘heritage’ as an official practice is normally understood and performed within the discursive realms of a white-male-middle class history, and prioritizes material artefacts (such as buildings or cultural landscapes) over intangible and ephemeral forms of culture. In trying to gain knowledge about Romas’ historical places, these heritage projects are forced to overcome the internal knowledge regimes, and in doing so, they can help to pinpoint the epistemological obstructions that appear when ‘the travelling (subaltern) Roma’ is to be situated within a particular ‘heritage-biased historical landscape’.

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