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Ryan PowellGypsy-Travellers/Roma and Social Integration: Childhood, Habitus and the "We-I Balance" [Abstract]

Norbert Elias provides a very useful theoretical framework for understanding long-term changes in childhood-adulthood relations at the societal level. Key processes central to this theorization include: the increasing separation of the social worlds of children and adults; the increasing distance between childhood and adulthood; the partial defunctionalisation of the family; the civilizing of parents; changes in the ‘we-I balance’ towards the ‘I’; and the gradual conversion of social constraints into self-restraints. Yet variable trajectories are under-developed in Elias' work: the differing nature of these interrelated social processes for different ‘outsider’ groups in society were not systematically addressed by Elias. However, this paper argues that Elias’ theories on childhood do provide us with a very useful conceptual framework from which to understand these variable trajectories. It applies his theories on childhood and individualization to Gypsy-Traveller/Roma groups in Europe and situates them within a long-term established-outsider figuration. The paper argues that the above processes differ markedly for many groups and, coupled with the existence of a very strong group orientation and long-term stigmatisation, are central to accounting for their relative lack of social integration. That is, differing processes of childhood and family socialisation are crucial in explaining how Gypsy-Traveller/Roma groups have maintained their own group identity and cultural continuity under intense pressures to assimilation and conformity.

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