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Leon Grimard, M.A.

Leon Grimard, M.A.


Différence et variabilité chez les Gitans: un enjeu réel loin de l'évidence. / Difference and variability among Gypsies: a real challenge far away from being obvious.

(Supervisors: Jorge Pantaleon, Montréal / Jean‐Louis Olive, Université de Perpignan / Michael Schönhuth, Trier)

The mainly homogenous Western societies, which were the basis of the modern nation, have left their mark on the last two centuries. But with the mass migratory movements of the end of the twentieth century, the diasporas, and the civilian, political, and economic refugees, these homogenous societies are pluralizing ethnically, culturally, and religiously. This pluralization has become irreversible in the twenty‐first century. It has given rise to tensions and problems of living‐together3 that ultimately threaten social cohesion. In 1908, Georg Simmel prophetically described this shock of meeting the stranger: the stranger who is not the foreigner passing through, but the one who settles here, whom Norbert Elias will call the outsider. The shock we are experiencing today is one of meeting this stranger, this outsider, and this is what the IRTG project, as I understand it, examines.

But how can we hope to find solutions for living with all the newcomers to our societies, when we have been unable to do so with the first to settle among us so long ago? My doctoral research project investigates one of these groups of internal, eternal strangers (les éternels étrangers de l’intérieur), as Christophe Robert called them in 2007, who have been relentlessly excluded, marginalized, ostracized, and detested from the outset of their arrival in Europe nearly a thousand years ago. They are the Roma, or more particularly the Gypsies (Gitans) of the South of France. I have investigated the forms and the extent of their social and economic exclusion, which have also led to their political and civilian exclusion, from the dominant, majority, Caucasian society. For lack of understanding this generalized racism against the Roma, if we are able to grasp the ramifications and consequences of exclusion and marginalization on thesepopulations, we will at least have a survey of avenues of research towards solutions for integration, a definition of a new form of social mortar, and a new pact for social cohesion.

The empirical results of my doctoral research show that diversity exists and is manifested to an unexpected extent even within this group, forming part of the diversity of society as a whole. Diversity must therefore be considered from the most macro‐ to the most micro‐level. This may seem like a self evident‐fact, but it took me two investigations totaling 15 months worth of study for the micro‐diversity in this Gypsy population to become clear. This diversity exists even within a city, between its different neighbourhoods, in all its subtle ramifications and social implications. But it exists also in the variability of social and economic exclusion, along two parallel axes that move along a third, geographic axis. Only a good understanding of the group allows one to understand not only the extent of this internal diversity, but also the articulation of these three axes and their consequences on the many small groups of Gypsy populations.

If micro‐diversity formulates itself and expresses itself endogenously, it does so against a perception and of popular, political, and media‐based discourse that is exogenous, essentialist, and homogenizing. This simplistic, not to mention populist, discourse grossly flouts the endogenous reality of the ostracized group. Here again, this may seem obvious. What is not obvious are the repercussions and consequences of an exogenous homogenization on the social and economic living conditions of a marginalized group such as the Gypsies. This maintained confusion, which is often misleading in its lack of discernment and nuance, above all attests to a refusal to know the Other. Yet, as Georg Simmel rightly underlined, even the refusal of a social relation is, de facto, necessarily a relation, however negative. Lastly, the question to ask is how do we want to live together? In an unavoidable downward spiral or an upward progression, in closing off or opening up to each other, in a firmly planted obsolete position or a proactive agency, in social disintegration or social consolidation? Diversity is certainly the challenge of the twenty‐first century for our societies.
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