A Franco-European struggle: The definitional conflict around European populations living in slums in France, identified as “Roma”

By Louis Bourgois

This article proposes a cross-analysis of how the European authorities on the one hand, and the French government on the other hand approach and characterize a phenomenon, appeared since the 1990s, of squats and slums inhabited by populations mainly from Romania, and identified as Roma. It first shows the existence of a public policy framework (Muller, 2014) strongly structured at the European level - and based on the recognition of a discriminated Roma minority. Secondly, the article analyzes why and how the French government refuses this approach, and the definitional struggles still underway within the country. Indeed, if we can assume a clear evolution in the conception of the public problem – notably through the evolution of the vocabulary used by stakeholders - the observation remains that of an unfinished process, which oscillates between a security, social and racialist approach of the phenomenon.

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