Gypsies and Travellers
Capabilities, Power and Social
Juliet McCaffery
UEA Sept 2009
Capabilities, Power and Social
Capabilities of Gypsies and Travellers
 Policies and power of the state
 Social justice – public and political
attitudes towards G/T
Dilemma reflects the situation of other nomadic,
semi nomadic groups and the Roma
Research interest, Nomadic Fulani, San in
Botswana, site provision, literacy work in Ireland
 Research focuses on 3 UK authorities – 2 rural
and one urban
 Research methods – ethnographic observation
and participation, grounded theory – iterative
 Access to the community a key issue
o support organisation for 6 years led to contacts and
being known as an active supporter
o Local Councillor with remit in equality and inclusion
Key Facts
Six different groups -500 years in UK
300 - 400,000 0’.5% of the population
Strong cultural characteristics – cleanliness family etc,
independence,- travelling, on sites and in housing
75,000 with nowhere legal to stop – due to currently
severe tension due to 1994 Criminal Justice and Public
Order Act and planning restrictions
Contested identities around ethnicity and lifestyles– not
in UK census
See handout for more detail
Information in Acton (1997, 2009), Kenrick and Clark (1996), Johnson and Willers (2004)
Clark and Greenfields (2006), Bhopal and Myers (2008) + websites
Policies and Practice: lack of data
Although member states [of the EU] provide
detailed educational statistics for the general
population, there is a marked absence of
ethnically differentiated data on Gypsies and
Travellers on basic indicators such as school
enrolment and attendance, as well as school
performance and achievement
(Commission of the European Union: Roma and Travellers in Public
Education EUMC 2006:6)
Education of school age children
1963 first Traveller school opened in Dublin,
1966 first vol. school opened in Midlands
1967 Plowden report influential
Policy decision to mainstream with Traveller
Education Support
Since 2003 in school census
2007 14% of Gypsy/Roma 16% Irish Travellers
- 5 A-C GCSEs, 45 and 43 % below national
average (49% of Black Caribbeans 5 A-Cs)
Low transfer to secondary school – access,
racist bullying, culture, work, experience.
Post school AE and literacy and numeracy
No statistics from DIUS (DfES), LSC, NIACE
Gypsies and Travellers almost absent from documents. Fee
remission for Learn Direct
Range of literacy and numeracy provision, Skills for Life, Train to
Gain, Learn Direct open to all
Policies for AE and literacy and settlement in Ireland – see
handout 2 for detail
Survey of 130 Gypsies and Travellers on sites found only 2 in
college – both housed, only 2 others had enquired about any
Only a few short term projects for Gypsies and Travellers, fire
brigade and ambulance service do training on site
Barriers to participation
Attitudes changing but many see little relevance
in formal education to their lives
 No strategy targeted at adult Gypsies and
Travellers – “unfreedoms can arise through
inadequate processes” (Sen 1999:17)
 “People with needs don’t know how to access
mainstream funding and mainstream funding
doesn’t know they are there” (LSC SE region
Conflicting attitudes
Everything is oral. Get some who say they are
ignorant, but they are very articulate. We are highly
articulate people; we express ourselves very well
and have good memories (Jamie May 2008)
We’re educated people , but we’re not educated in
reading …but we’re educated in the world, we
know exactly everything what’s going on, but when
it comes to putting paper in front of us ….
(Carol Feb 2009)
Don’t want your education (Gary July 2008)
Conflicting attitudes
I can’t read, my wife can read a little, my boy can read
and write a little. My problem with reading and writing
(Sam May 2009)
Nowadays you can’t get a job, and (even) a cleaning job.
You want to go and clean the toilet. You have to have
qualifications or a CV (Carol Feb 2009)
My son is dyslexic, I am a bit. He can’t hardly read and
write, now he’s a fully trained electrician and gas fitter –
he got his daughter to teach him over the computer
(Charlie Aug 2008)
Barriers to accessing available
You’re a Traveller …. The reason [I don’t
go] is that, the reason is, the reading bit’s
not important……….. It’s not the reading
when you have to go to these colleges
and things like, it’s for people to know
who you are. (Carol Feb.2008)
Social justice and public policy
“Policy makers have two sets of reasons for
taking an interest in the values of social justice
1) justice is a central concept indentifying the
aims and objectives of public policy and the
instruments to implement 2) all public policy is
dependent on how individuals and groups in
society behave, need to understand the values
of the public at large, including their sense of
justice” (Sen 1999:274).
Social norms
How people behave often depends on
how they see – and perceive – others as
behaving. Much depends therefore on the
reading of prevailing behaviour norms. A
sense of relative justice vis a vis a
comparison group – can be an important
influence on behaviour (Sen 1999:277).
Prejudice: Public
Ah, well they do have a bad reputation, leave
rubbish and that everywhere (Casual conversation April
“She was very polite” The Smith’s are quite nice
people" unrelated arguments - photo of faeces
from elsewhere, party held 3 years ago, friend
afraid to visit. Spongers, don’t pay anything
(‘residents Meeting 2001)
University e mails “3 Gypsy caravans in the car
park; lock your doors and windows” (June 2008)
Prejudice Public
,s experience, Interview Feb 2009)
“Would he move her car, or do something about
the stupid car, she turned round and she said,
she had oxygen bottles, because she’s a
midwife… in case the Pikeys steal them. I just
looked at her and I said, “Well I don’t think they
will steal your oxygen. They might go and steal
your car, but wouldn’t know oxygen bottles are
in your car”.. and the man she was going out
with said “Yes, well, them Pikeys steal anything”
The Justice System
Prejudice against Travellers is not only acceptable in the
force, it is expected, (Coxhead 2004:58)
Officers for a PSU unit went onto our site and let off fire
crackers. These things are normal (quote from G/T interview
Coxhead 2004: 65)
Johnny Delaney, a young 15 yr old Traveller killed in a
racist attack May 8th 2003. Kicked and stamped on the
head by two 16 year old boys. "He deserved it; he's only
a fucking Gippo“ The police treated the killing as a
racially motivated attack, but in the Crown Court there
was no formal acceptance that the death was due to
Guy Fawkes Firle October 2003
A [model of a] caravan
which portrayed women
and children inside, with
'pikey' written on the
back and the image of a
scantily-clad woman
standing in the door was
wheeled down the street
and burnt
A Councillor led the procession
Despite a police investigation the
Crown Prosecution Service dropped the
Politicians and prejudice
We are in a pre-election period and Travellers are a vote
loser for us; it is clear that this town) is a soft touch. Too
often our parks and streets are littered with Travellers’
vans …….If a way could be found to charge these people
for services provided, …..simply a drain on our resources
(not to mention their disgusting dogs and the delight
some of them take in shitting in the bushes). Councillor
Jack Straw when Home Secretary said “They think its perfectly OK
for them to cause mayhem, to burgling, thieving, breaking into
vehicles… including defecating in doorways of firms” (2003)
Basildon Council and Dale Farm
Stamp on the camps Spreading misery ... huge camp of
1,000 Irish travellers at Crays Hill, Essex
The Deputy Prime Minister has ordered
local councils to go soft on travellers’ camps
And turn a blind eye to the shocking problems
they create. But The Sun, on behalf of our
ten million readers, is determined to fight him
all the way (Sun newspaper March 9 2005)
Ni Shuinear (1997) English in Ireland were the
common enemy, when they left Travellers were
seen as backward, dirty and poor and even
genetically inferior
 McVeigh (1997) anti-nomadism, sedentarism to
distinguish it from racism, fear and resentment
for an apparent freedom
 Monbiot (Guardian 4.11.2003) fear the barbarian
hordes who sacked Rome and destroyed
civilization, later hordes of Genghis Khan.
Bhopal and Myers (2008) - outside acceptability,
“white other” Chavs, poor white trash or East Ed
 Coxhead (2004:29)“in groups” and “out groups ,
pressure to conform, rejection of the ethnic
status of Travellers possibly an extension of
extermination rather than mere social exclusion
 Sen (1999) Cultural alienation problems their
fault, therefore no feeling of social responsibility
towards them
Engaging with the “Other”
Prize giving event at the House of Lords Gypsy
Roma Traveller History Month 2007
Lord Avebury “Could a Traveller become Prime
Minister ?……but they wouldn’t have the literacy
Bob responded “I don’t need literacy skills to
represent my people.”
(Interview. Aug. 19 2009)
Opportunities for Interaction
Local forum 1997 – no G/T representatives
– 2002 G/T rep proposed – activists attended
– 2005 Gypsy spoke, 5 others attended
Asymmetry of power
2007 Police Forum 12 members –police and G/T
and support orgs
Can’t tell who can /can’t read the material
Reading for engagement
Literacy required –e mail + agenda +date
+ place
 Reports for meetings, gov. docs.
 Individual agreements
 Planning applications
 Court procedures re evictions
 Health cards
Carol: At meetings …I would wait until
somebody ….reads something out and says ‘It’s
this and this’…I was able to pick it up … and
knew what was on the paper…..right, I seriously
need to learn to read (2.Feb.2009)
Supporter: Some people might like you to read it
Sam: I can’t read it so I have to remember it all.
Jamie: I couldn’t understand the small print, so
(May 2009)
its gone on for years (Planning application May 2008)
Language and literacy
Charlie: There’s lots of words, they come
along with these things, circulars and
things, and I am not to sure of a word, so
I look them up in the dictionary (Aug.8 2009)
Gary: challenging the minutes: you are
educated you know the words (July 2008)
Interrupting at inappropriate moments,
(See conversations on the handout)
Gary – Bhopal re racism
 Arthur - re private land
“Where do people take their concerns to, this is the only
place they have to come to?” (April 29 2009)
Discourse and Power
“Speakers lacking the legitimate
competences are de facto excluded… or
are condemned to silence” (Bourdieu
“..every linguistic interaction….. Bears the
traces of the social structure it both
expresses and helps to reproduce.”
(Bourdieu 1991:2)
Knowing the discourse
We do need to be educated. We do need to
have the basic things in place –health, education
and accommodation (Bob: 16.08.09)
[We] must be able to converse in a political
manner to demand our rights, to do it in a
political stance and reach local politicians – need
to get people to take the flack and answer it in a
democratic way: [we] need people able to
converse (Jamie April 2008)
Literacy and numeracy are essential
to freedom
Illiteracy and innumeracy are a form of insecurity in
themselves. Not to be able to read or write or count is
a tremendous deprivation
When people are illiterate, their ability to invoke their
legal rights can be very Limited
Can muffle political opportunities, by reducing the
ability to participate in the political arena …..absence
of voice in politics can entail a severe reduction of
influence and the likelihood of just treatment
Sen: International Literacy Day 2002 8 Sept.2002
Symbolic and actual violence
The Future
“It is a serious issue for Europe because
we can’t move forward ………….until we
stop blaming the victims and accept what
happened to these communities and see
the consequences of what we have done
to their community.” (Lord Avebury: June

Literacy and Numeracy Provision for English Gypsies …