Subverting the Gazhe Gaze: Reclaiming Roma Identity in the European World and Beyond
Emrys, Brandon Chase
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For centuries, the Romani people in Europe and North America have been the focus of a non-Roma gaze which simultaneously fetishizes and vilifies them. This ascription of a tropic identity serves to both reify the constructed identity of the non-Roma as societal elite and to ensure the Roma remain marginalized and divested of any voice or agency Using Gayatri Spivak’s 1988 essay, Can the Subaltern Speak?, as a point of departure, this dissertation explores the various methods by which the Roma strive to make their voices heard. Analyzing depictions of “Gypsy” figures in classical works of the European canon in order to highlight the language within which the Roma are situated, this dissertation then pivots to an examination of several key texts written by Roma authors in order to observe their approaches to working within the context of these tropic ascriptions to negotiate a space from which they might successfully communicate with their non-Roma audience and be recognized as autonomous individuals. While it becomes apparent that cultural blending and invisibility, along with direct communication and engagement, are ineffective strategies met with resistance, the texts demonstrate a third, indirect strategy, running obliquely between passive silence and direct confrontation, which subverts the very gaze fixated upon them.
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