“We beg you not to equate the names of Gypsies and knife-grinders with honest traders"

State Regulation of Itinerant Trades, Traders' Agency and Racialization of 'Gypsies' in Czech Lands between 1918 and 1938

  • Pavel Baloun Faculty of Humanities, Charles University (Prague)
Keywords: anti-Gypsy measures, itinerant traders, interwar period, racialization

Abstract

This article focuses on the contemporary common association of itinerant trades with “Gypsyness” and the consequent relation between adopting anti-Gypsy measures and the state intentions to regulate professing itinerant trades. By analysing the intended bill on itinerant trades, the study shows how were the administrative police terms such as Gypsies and “work-shies” intertwined. It, further, argues that limiting space for self-employed mobile economic activities went hand in hand with legalizing the status of second-class citizens in 1927 when a new law On Wandering Gypsies was passed by the Czechoslovak Parliament. The article also analyses the agency of one particular itinerant traders´ association called Kotva (Anchor) and pays the attention to the traders´ manifold defensive strategies. Because of their close contacts with Gypsies – sharing social and economic spaces –, setting themselves apart from the Gypsies and presenting themselves as “decent citizens”, i.e. part of the Czechoslovak nation, constituted crucial agenda of this association. In their successful effort to shield themselves of being included into the new police register of “wandering Gypsies” they reproduced and amplified the state aim to eliminate “work-shies” among itinerant traders. In this way, the article deals with the process of racialization of the category of Gypsies in the interwar Czechoslovakia. And racialization is presented as intricate historical process which was influenced even by the non-state historical actors.

Published
2019-12-09