Gypsies and Caravan Dwellers in the Netherlands - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The position of Gypsies and caravan dwellers in the Netherlands can only be understood in the light of the role of the Dutch judicial authorities in the last century, when they had the authority to label widely different groups as deviant. Thus the necessary conditions for the label of "Gypsy" were: traveling as a family, an overtly nomadic lifestyle, and a foreign origin. Begging and a poor appearance were of secondary importance. Around the turn of the Century the call for jurisdiction to restrict the number of people living in caravans, foreigners as well as natives, became stronger. This led to the Woonwagenwet (Caravan Act) in 1918. The dominant idea behind this legislation was that caravan dwellers were antisocial, refused to work, and bothered the inhabitants of the country. The only difference between the Dutch caravan dwellers and the Gypsies was that the former were considered a domestic problem, the latter a problem that concerned aliens. Because of the institutionalization of the policy toward aliens around 1930, all groups that fulfilled these conditions were considered undesirable. Because the nomadic way of life was seen as outspoken antisocial behavior, the government emphasized the alleged indecent and immoral aspects of such groups. Cohabitation by adults was easily associated with unbridled sexuality, and it was assumed that their children would come to no good and continue the deviant life-style of their parents. This view corresponded with the general stigmatizing of so-called antisocials, who in the twentieth century faced constant attempts to "civilize" them.

During World War II this attitude reached its peak. The Dutch call for special camps to resocialize caravan dwellers was welcomed by the Nazis. Because of their racial ideas, however, they differentiated between antisocials and Gypsies. Consequently, the latter group was sent to a concentration camp, while the others escaped this fate.

Political Organization. Gypsies are not really integrated into the formal system of Dutch society. Even among themselves, they generally form alliances only on an informal basis. In the fight for the legalization of foreign Gypsies, however, they founded the pressure group Vereniging Rom (1977). Later followed the Vereniging Lau Mazirel (1982), the Internationaal Romano Comité (1986), and the Landelijke Vereniging Sinti (1989). The caravan dwellers have set up two organizations: Landelijk Platform Woonwagenbewoners en Zigeuners and Landelijk Overleg Woonwagenvrouwen.

Religion. No anthropological field research has been done in the Netherlands on the cultural aspects of Gypsies and caravan dwellers. We only have some information about their Religious beliefs. Dutch Gypsies in general adopted the religion of the region where they settled. Almost all of them became Roman Catholics. About one-third recently converted to the Pentecostal church, spreading from France, whose influence among European Gypsies is increasing. A separate "Gypsy mission" has been founded with its own organization, journal ( Leven en Licht ), and meetings. Among the foreign Gypsies we can discern Muslim and Eastern Orthodox beliefs. The Dutch caravan dwellers are predominantly Roman Catholic.

User Contributions:

Anna Mlynarczyk
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Jul 4, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
Dear Sir or Madam,
my name is Anna Mlynarczyk and I am a student from Poland. I plan to earn my bachelor's degree in Sociology. I also work as a researcher in TV program called ,,Woman at the end of the world”. This TV program consist of a series of documentary movies presenting interesting women from all over the world. The main aim of it is to show the feminine point of view of the local culture, traditions, exotic locations, and local customs.
I am gathering as much information as I can about Romani People in Romania. I put the biggest attention to the families that travel in wagons, also called vardos, pulled by horses. I am deeply concerned about the conditions they live in. I would like to carry out research about their situation, nomadic life style, work, culture and everyday life.
I am writing to inquire about the information that I cannot find in the books available in Poland nor on the internet. I would be very grateful if you would send me some information about those nomad Romain People from Romania. Is there any Organization that oversees them, or maybe there are some festivals where they gather? Where can I obtain information about their life, is there an Organization or anthropologist in Romania that might have more details about them? I would really appreciate any information you would give me. Any other facts about their current situation would be a very big help for me.
I believe we can widen people's horizons by showing them how the life of Romanian People looks like. Although it may be hard and unfair, they still remained proud people who have very interesting tradition, culture, beliefs and they travel the world like their ancestors.
I would greatly appreciate your attention to my request.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours faithfully,
Anna Mlynarczyk

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