Romani Rebel Writing: George 'Lazzy' Smith's Entrepreneurial Auto-Exoticism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The history of Romani experience in Britain has been written, overwhelmingly, by non-Romani authors. In particular, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ‘Gypsilorists’ assumed control of discourses about Gypsy language, culture and race, representing Romani people as anachronistic, exotic outsiders in thrall to white ‘experts’ who could explain their heritage. Capitalising on non-Romani interest in his people, however, George ‘Lazzy’ Smith displayed his own family at Victorian industrial exhibitions and left a fragmented archive that shows a powerful, self-authored counternarrative to white discourses of modernity and display. This chapter focuses on the family’s appearance at the 1886 Liverpool Exhibition and the pamphlet Lazzy published to advertise the attraction, as well as newspaper advertisements and interviews with the family. It also considers Edwardian Gypsilorist discomfort with a Romani man grasping the possibilities of industrial modernity and self-authorship, and Lazzy’s forceful and explicit challenge to their epistemic authority in letters of 1909–10.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRebellious Writing
Subtitle of host publicationContesting Marginalisation in Edwardian Britain
EditorsLauren Alex O'Hagan
PublisherPeter Lang Ltd
Chapter12
Pages412-377
Number of pages36
ISBN (Electronic)9781789972955, 9781789972948
ISBN (Print)9781789972917, 1789972914
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2020

Publication series

NameWriting and Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century
PublisherPeter Lang Ltd
Volume10
ISSN (Print)2235-2287

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