Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez

Jan 9, 2023

Romani Representation in Pop Culture

An interview with Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez

New Books Network 2023

Roma figures have been an essential part of European folklore, myths, and literary traditions for centuries, with writers from Cervantes to Shakespeare to Victor Hugo drawing on the stereotype of the free-spirited, bohemian "Gypsy." Post-World War II, Roma characters began to appear in a new literary medium: American comic books. Roma heroes and villains alike fill the pages of DC and Marvel comics, with iconic characters like Dr. Doom, Magneto, Scarlet Witch, and Nightcrawler depicted as Roma. Almost exclusively written and drawn by non-Romani, however, these characters are often flawed or stereotypical, or, in recent years, they've been stripped of their Roma identity. Despite this, Roma comic book characters have become an important source of inspiration and empowerment for Roma youth around the globe. In this episode, Roma human rights activist and pop culture expert Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez joins me to talk about depictions of Romani characters in comic books, film and TV, the use of Roma identity as a literary trope, and comics as a tool of empowerment for minority groups.

Music in this episode: Desert City by Kevin MacLeod. License.

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Maggie Freeman

Maggie Freeman is a PhD candidate in the School of Architecture at MIT. She researches uses of architecture by nomadic peoples and historical interactions of nomads and empires, with a focus on the modern Middle East.

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