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Resisting Assimilation: survival and adaptation to 'alien' accommodation forms. The case of British Gypsies/Travellers in Housing.

journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 15:11 authored by David Smith, Margaret Greenfields
This paper consists of discussion of findings from a series of empirical studies conducted in London and southern England. A central concern of these studies was to explore the collective responses and adaptations of Gypsies and Travellers to post-war (1945) government legislation which has aimed to eradicate nomadic lifestyles and in so doing, to settle and assimilate this group into the general population. Despite these policy objectives Gypsies and Travellers through utilising forms of cultural resilience have resisted enormous pressures to assimilate, managing to live within a wider culture while rejecting its values and social institutions and recreating traditional collective lifestyles (as far as possible) within ‘bricks and mortar’ accommodation. The authors outline contemporary forms of resistance to assimilation and, by drawing on qualitative and ethnographic data, demonstrate how relations between the state and Gypsies and Travellers is characterised by a cyclical relationship of domination, resistance and resilience. As legislation is enacted to restrict the mobility of Gypsies and Travellers and ‘settle’ them, so these groups develop innovative strategies to evade or minimise the impact of legislation, thus instigating a new phase of policy development. Cultural resilience in this context therefore encompasses active resistance to externally imposed changes that are perceived as antithetical to traditional lifestyles. Drawing on Acton’s (1974) typology of adaptive strategies the authors illustrate how recourse to culturally grounded strategies of resistance has allowed Gypsies and Travellers to maintain a sense of social cohesion and group identity, which assists in minimising the more damaging impacts of legislation.



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Today’s Children Tomorrow’s Parents: An Interdisciplinary Journal




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ARCHIVED Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education (until September 2018)


A freely available copy of the author's accepted manuscript can be found at University of Greenwich's repository :

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