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Gypsy-Travellers and Welfare Professional Discourse: On Individualization and Social Integration



Abstract:  This paper examines the subtle ways in which welfare professionals in the UK construct Gypsy culture as subordinate to the dominant Western concept of “civilization”. Qualitative empirical evidence is presented to show how notions of a resistance to processes of individualization and social integration—which draw on conflicting interpretations of childhood and a perceived lack of aspiration among Gypsy-Travellers—are seen as legitimate grounds for state and social welfare intervention. The paper argues that a strong group orientation and a more marked gendered division of labour are constructed as being at odds with these dominant social processes. It is posited that the “civilizing” project against Gypsy-Travellers ignores cultural norms and values resulting in the perception that they are undeserving. The paper suggests that theoretical accounts of social processes at a society wide level require revision in order to understand their varying impact on peripheral minorities in specific spaces.