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Roma, Gypsies and Travellers' social in/exclusion in European urban camps

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CAMP-BIVALENCE (Roma, Gypsies and Travellers' social in/exclusion in European urban camps)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

"Europe is inhabited by groups who are more likely than others to live in socially excluded conditions; this means that access to social, economic and political resources and rights are typically restricted to them due to socio-economic, legal and/or cultural obstacles. Three of the most socially excluded of these groups are Roma, Gypsies and Travellers (hereafter RGTs), Muslims and - increasingly - refugees and asylum seekers. For many years, Sociology and Social Anthropology have been investigating the social conditions of each of these groups, by typically approaching them either in isolation from each other, viewing them primarily as ""migrants"", and privileging a focus on the state in dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion. Going beyond a state-centred focus on migration, instead adopting a relational approach squarely focused on Civil Society Organizations (hereafter CSOs), Camp-bivalence has advanced knowledge on social inclusion and exclusion dynamics involving these three minority groups.

From a Sociological and Socio-Anthropological perspective, Camp-Bivalence aimed to analyse the dynamics of social exclusion and inclusion of RGTs in Rome and Greater Birmingham, refugees and asylum seekers in Berlin, and Muslims in Bucharest. In each city, the specific focus was the relationships between one minority group and one specific urban location: In Rome and Greater Birmingham, the focus was on one campsite for RGT in each city; in Berlin on a park where black Africans typically hang out in groups, and in Bucharest on the location where a new Mosque is going to be constructed. In particular, the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) was the key empirical focus within the dynamics of social in/exclusion under scrutiny.

The ways in which CSOs and EU Member States attempt to guarantee socially inclusive conditions to these three groups are particularly crucial, in view of improving the provision of social services and security for all. Cities, in this context, assume a key role as contexts in which economic activities are typically concentrated, hence where the supply and demand of labour, education, healthcare and housing are particularly significant. Moreover, cities are places of fast and dense social interactions, and, as such, catalysts and elicitors of cross-cultural acceptance and understanding but also misunderstanding and explicit rejection; in sum, cities are the key contexts in which everyday and institutional conflicts and negotiations around social inclusion and exclusion occur.

"The research involved three main parts: Preparatory work; Field research, and Data analysis.

Preparatory work included a systematic review of the scholarship and online and long-distant search of policy documents on urban projects targeting each minority group in each city.

Field research for data collection was organized in six phases - two in Berlin (all in all, three months), two in Rome (all in all, two months), one in Greater Birmingham (all in all, one-and-a-half months) and one in Bucharest (two weeks). By following an established qualitative approach, each phase was organized in two main types of research activities: carrying out semi-structured interviews with relevant subjects, and collecting policy documents in local municipal and CSO archives. Research in Bucharest was conducted by an affiliated researcher and limited to policy documents.

Data analysis involved interview transcription, thematic analysis of interviews, and interpretative analysis of policy documents.

The key research findings are the following three:

1. The dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion of Roma, Gypsies and Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers, and Muslims in European cities can heuristically be considered as part of similar social, political and cultural trends. Therefore, more comparative research is needed, in order to view larger processes and dynamics of in/exclusion across minority and largely excluded groups, as well as across European local contexts.

2. The main similarities between dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion of these three groups is the paradigm of ""security"", which invest all contexts. Over the last three decades, the meanings and shared values of ""security"" have largely been shifting from referring to ""social protection for everyone, especially the most vulnerable"" toward ""social order"", especially ""personal/bodily protection of the majority population"". This shift has included an increase in policing, criminalization of minorities and processes of racialization that have rarely been documented in European scholarship.

3. While converging within the ""security"" paradigm, the three groups differ primarily in the dominant frame(s) within which their cultural/ethnic ""difference"" is understood. In the case of RGTs, culture and lifestyle is the main frame, in the case of Muslims - religion, and in the case of asylum seekers and refugees, it is the relation between darker skin colour and perceived behaviour in urban public spaces.
The research has allowed to expand our knowledge of the ways in which dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion of minority groups occurr in European cities. So far, studies of such dynamics have typically been carried out either on migrant groups, or concerning specific urban-spatial conditions such as e.g. segregation, gentrification, advanced urban marginality in inner cities and/or urban peripheries, financialization of real estate and the planning of mega-events. While this research approach has produced important findings which have facilitated debates on dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion, it has failed to address important common dynamics across different groups in different European localities and to systematically understand the role of CSOs beyond the state. Innovatively, Camp-bivalence uncovered the complex interplay between CSOs, the state and minority groups within dynamics of social inclusion and social exclusion, showing that minority groups which diverge by legal status, socio-economic conditions, geographical location and cultural identity, may participate in partially similar dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in cities.

This research expanded academic knowledge on processes of in/exclusion of minority groups in European cities, by providing a coherent and comprehensive approach to these processes across minority groups, cities and typologies of urban spaces. This suggests that the research can be applied as a vector of knowledge transfer across local contexts in Europe, and be used by CSOs and civil servants dealing with minority and largely excluded social groups at the local, regional and national level. Journalists may as well benefit from in-depth as well as background knowledge on a topic, social in/exclusion, which rarely receives rigorous coverage.