"The bastards of humanity" : state authorities' interactions with Gypsy populations in Germany and Italy, 1861-1914 / by Jennifer Grana Illuzzi.
In the period 1861-1914, the era of national unification and development in Germany and Italy, Gypsies developed into one of Europe's most despised and marginalized groups. In both countries—the focal points of my dissertation—they became the “bastards of humanity” that Giuseppe Mazzini wrote about in The Duties of Man: they had “neither name, token, voice, nor rights” because state authorities constantly sought to deny their claims to nationality. Hannah Arendt alluded to the precariousness of this situation in Origins of Totalitarianism , where she argues that the stateless lack human rights because in the modern era, the nation-state is the repository of rights and only membership in the nation-state provides individuals with access to rights. Gypsies' interactions with state authorities exposed a weakness in the liberal universalist norms of the Rechtsstaat, which was only exacerbated by the nationalizing project underway in both Germany and Italy. By denying them the benefits of national belonging, executive authorities placed Gypsies outside of the juridical order, in a “state of exception” approximating the situation of the homo sacer described by Giorgio Agamben. Gypsies were “laid bare” or “abandoned” to the raw power of the executive authorities, who stripped away even their rights as foreigners within another country. The actions of the authorities moved from the “foreignization” of Gypsies to the “sacralization” of Gypsies. I argue that the police, executive authorities on all levels of the state, and the judiciary in Italy and Germany participated in positioning Gypsies outside of the juridical order before the First World War. Using a comparative methodology allowed me to test Agamben's theory on two divergent cases of nation-state building. My study demonstrates that despite their differences, both Italy and Germany effectively marginalized Gypsy populations by employing the “state of exception.” The interaction between state authorities and Gypsies reveals the disturbing ease with which executive authorities could violate the norms of the Rechtsstaat in pursuit of a more homogeneous national body.
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