The Olympic Regeneration of East London in the Official Discourse. The Preconditions for the Construal of Public Space

Drawing on Hannah Arendt’s discussion on politics, Robert Dahl’s interpretation of plurality, and Colin Crouch’s analysis of “post-democracy”, the work elaborates on a basic notion of democratic public space. The aim is to understand the extent to which the texts framing the structure of governance for the urban renewal of East London set out the preconditions for the creation of a democratic urban space. Download PDF.



Mediating between Social-Economic Structuring and Urban Formation. A Discourse Theory of Transformation and Change in of the City’s Social Realm

The paper has been published in: Crossing Conceptual Boundaries, Oct. 2014, vol. 6, pp. 19-30.

This paper  explores the possibility for a discourse theory of social-economic and urban transformation and change. Challenging base-supestructure and/or cause-effect theories of the processes of urban formation, the work aims at understanding how the relationship between the social-economic and the urban spheres of cities works, and the role that discourse as site for social-political action plays in such relationship. Download PDF.

Branding Stratford: Social Representation and the Re-making of Place

The paper has been published in: Architecture MPS: Architecture_media_politics_society, Vol. 2, no. 3., March 2013.

As part of the societal world, architecture and urban space do not have any ‘objective’ quality. They are representations. Their meaning is produced through the negotiation and interaction of individuals, groups and classes. Yet, such ‘subjective’ meanings do have a ‘material’ relevance, as they reflect a dialectical process between the functions, forms, ownership and practices of space. They reveal construal and construction: the way in which architectural spaces are represented on the one hand, and the way in which they are physically constructed and used on the other. Nowhere does this become more evident in our current society than in the arguments around urban renewal and regeneration. The Westfield Stratford City is a typical example.



Constructing Romanies: The Representation of Roma people in News Reporting Discourse (Authors: Antonio and Eliana Desiderio)

The paper is part of a research project funded by the UCL’s European Institute. The title of the research is: The Europeanization of Nationals and Ethnic Minorities

The text is available below


This contribution investigates how Romanies and the physical space they live in are re-constructed by media discourse in London and the Czech Republic. It is our belief that the social reality does not have any pre-given and objective essence, but is culturally and historically defined. The categories through which we comprehend the world are socially constructed, as well as the labels that we attach to people and things. Therefore, this work aims at understanding:

How news reporting language constructs Romanies as a ‘social category’. Here, we will discuss how media in London and the Czech Republic contribute to the creation of a Romani negative image. We will analyse how media are influenced by society to maintain a set of shared beliefs about Roma people and, in turn, how media act upon English and Czech society to reproduce the image of the ‘other’. To assist in our analysis, we will highlight the active role of language use in shaping reality.

How such categorisation becomes ‘spatialised’, that is to say, how the representation of Romanies creates a simultaneous representation of the physical space Romanies live in. The construction of the difference between ‘insiders’ (upper-middle class Londoners and ‘educated’ Czechs) and ‘outsiders’ (‘dirty’, ‘drunk’ and ‘defiant’ Romanian Roma in London and ‘inadaptable’ Czech Roma in the Czech Republic) entails the representation of contrasting practices (high-end shopping vs. gambling, begging and leaving human waste). Such representation produces in turn representations of space, or we might also say, spaces: the insiders’ ‘clean’ space vs. the outsiders’ ‘dirty’ space.

How such representation affects the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of Romanies in/from urban space and hence society as a whole. These levels of representation (representation of Romanies, of the practices they engage and of the space they live in) have a strong material relevance, for to say who does what in the space means to say who belongs and who does not belong in the space and, therefore, who the space belongs to.

Closely linked to that, a further goal is the understanding of the relation between members of the ‘in-group’ and of the ‘out-group’ established by media discourse. The argument will be made that in a capitalist society, a journalist – most of the time representative of the dominant group – must comply with market needs. In this case, an objective, truthful analysis of the societal world is easily replaced by a biased, partial one, which usually leads to further disadvantage for the perceived subordinate group.

We will examine these points through the analysis of two articles published on the server of the English newspaper “The Sun” and two articles published on two different Czech news servers: and These servers are very popular. Hence, when reading the content of the articles it is possible to understand what the audience thinks about some issues.

The method we will employ to de-construct journalistic texts and to better grasp the relations of power and the social inequalities established by language (Wodak: 2001) is Critical Discourse Analysis. Adopting Norman Fairclough’s approach to CDA, we have considered journalism as a social practice with a semiotic element (here, the representation of Roma people). From such a practice emerges further elements, such as social relations (writer/reader; dominant group/subordinate group), social identities (Londoners and Czechs/Roma) and cultural values (educated/uneducated; hardworking/lazy) (ibid.: 124).

Social constructionism constitutes the theoretical frame of this research, for, as said above, it relies on the assumption that the social world does not have any intrinsic quality to be uncovered. The social world is in fact a representation which is constructed out of the cultural and historical context and whose meanings are constantly re-negotiated by social relations between individuals, groups and classes. “[W]hat distinguishes constructionism – Crotty writes –… is its understanding that all meaningful reality is socially constructed” (Crotty 1998: 55).

Critical and Theoretical Context

The ways in which people understand reality are culturally and historically determined: the categories and conceptual frameworks through which people commonly perceive the world are the products of a specific historical period and cultural context. Therefore, the nature of the world is constructed by people and their interactions (Burr 2003: 3-4). Starting from such an anti-essentialist stance, this work assumes that no predetermined categories are able to exist, considering the process of social construction that determines the world. In Burr’s words, “There are no essences inside things and people that make them what they are” (ibid.: 5). On the basis of this social constructionist perspective, the ideas that both Londoners and Czechs have about Roma people, and all the labels that the former have attached to the latter, are the products of ‘subjective’ representations.

Language plays a central role in such a construction: it constitutes, as Burr claims, “the necessary pre-condition for thought” (ibid.: 7). Indeed, through language people construct the world and the categories that enframe it, attaching names to things and actions. Language is, then, a social action; to quote Richardson, “Language is produced by society and (through the effect of language use on people) it goes on to help recreate it” (Richardson 2007: 10). Language in general, and in this specific case journalistic language, expresses the power relations between individuals, groups and classes and the social hierarchies structuring societies. Journalistic discourse in particular gives us the chance to observe the interactional nature of language: this discourse is not superimposed upon society, but is in fact the outcome of a constant interaction between the journalist and his or her audience. Journalism and society are bound by a two-way relationship in which society influences journalism and vice versa.

The social world affects journalism through a shared set of prejudices, stereotypes and attitudes, usually directed toward minority groups. As Van Dijk claims: “There exists a body of generally shared beliefs on which such discriminatory actions are based, and which provides the tacit legitimation of the power exercised by the dominant in-group” (Van Dijk 1989: 202). In order to avoid conceptual ambiguity, it is useful to look at the definitions that Quashtoff (1989) provides of the terms ‘stereotype’, ‘attitude’ and ‘prejudice’. While “stereotype” is defined as “the verbal expression of a certain type of belief” and as an emotional overgeneralisation, prejudice is instead a more mental condition characterised by negative feelings mostly toward ethnic groups perceived as outsiders (ibid.: 182-184,). Finally, attitude is “a mental and neutral state of readiness… exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations to which it is related” (ibid.: 183).

Going back to the relationship between media and society, a crucial issue still needs to be addressed: to what extent do media influence society? Principally, media affect society by acting upon the set of shared beliefs mentioned above. In producing news, a journalist decides to maintain unvaried or transform all the opinions produced by the social world. Through this process of transformation and reproduction of news, the language engaged by the mass media establishes a power relationship. Since a journalist is usually representative of the in-group, he or she constructs the news according to the ideologies and values of the dominant group. Therefore, a journalist analyses events through the ‘exclusive’ eyes of the ‘insider’. This process of news production justifies the ideology established by the socio-economic, cultural and political elite (Van Dijk 1989: 203). However, from a Critical Discourse Analysis perspective, language is not intrinsically powerful – “it gains power by the use powerful people make of it” (Wodak 2001: 10). In a market and global society, an audience is not just consumer but also commodity (Richardson 2001: 79). According to Richardson, the audience of a newspaper is sold in turn to advertisers; in this way the audience, from being a consumer, becomes the product itself. However, not all ‘audiences’ are interesting in the same way: the higher one exists in society’s scale, the more ‘desirable’ one is as part of an audience. Being part of the elite or the upper middle class means sharing a certain ideology and set of beliefs; such classes, mostly conservative and with an exclusive idea of society, tend to buy newspapers that promote their ideas of society. Hence ethnicity, and the way in which newspapers deal with it, is strongly important (ibid.).

In an ethnically-based nation such as the Czech Republic, media language plays a great role in fuelling racist feelings. Nevertheless, this is also true as far a multiethnic, global and modern city such as London is concerned (but here the question is: what and whose modernity? How and by whom is modernity represented? Which is its meaning?). The relevance of language lies in that the way in which people are named, the attributes employed to describe them, the very way in which sentences are constructed express power relations and social hierarchies, thus reinforcing the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’. Indeed, English and Czech society, with their anti-Roma stances, influence journalists; in turn, media act upon such feelings to reproduce sets of stereotypes and prejudices. Firstly, journalists construct news about ethnic minorities along exclusive lines. As will be explained later in the text analysis, the idea that ‘they’ are not like ‘us’, and, more importantly, that ‘they’ do not belong to ‘us’, becomes quite clear. Secondly, this binary opposition necessitates the choice of ‘powerful’ words and the construction of sentences that together create the final production of the media text, which is most of the time an expression of the dominant point of view.

To understand how the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ is constructed in newspaper discourse, we can refer to what is called ‘the ideological square’. As Richardson explains, “the ideological square is characterised by a Positive Self-Representation and a simultaneous Negative Other-Representation; it is a way of perceiving and representing the world – and specifically ‘our’ and ‘their’ actions, position and role within the world. The ideological square predicts that ‘outsiders’ of various types will be represented in a negative way and ‘insiders’ will be represented in a positive way. This occurs by emphasising (what is called foregrounding) ‘their’ negative characteristics and social activities and de-emphasising (or backgrounding) ‘their’ positive characteristics and social activities. Conversely, ‘our’ positive characteristics and social activities are foregrounded and ‘our’ negative characteristics and social activities are backgrounded” (Richardson: 51).

The mutual relationship between media and society, journalist and reader, needs to be located within the context of today’s capitalist society. In such a society, news is a product and the audience is its consumer. In order to be sold, news needs to be created on the basis of society’s “needs” and “tastes”. In Richardson’s words, “Looking solely at ‘news reporting’” – one of several genres of text within newspaper discourse –“is the end-product of a complex process which begins with a systematic sorting and selecting of events and topics according to a socially constructed set of categories” (ibid: 77). Understanding news as a market product reduces the relationship between writer and reader to a mere act of production and consumption. In this way, news abandons its normative role of truth-telling to become just a further product of the market system (ibid.: 79).

The use of CDA is crucial here, since it is concerned with the relations established between language and power. More specifically, CDA is helpful in a critical understanding of how social inequalities are created, expressed and justified by language use, particularly media language (Wodak 2001:6). As Fairclough has pointed out, media language and discourse, supposedly transparent, is the place where power relationships take place (ibid.:6). CDA, with its strong concern with power, has moved a step further than Discourse Analysis, which seeks to comprehend the formation of ethnic prejudices and stereotypes during daily interaction (Van Dijk 1985:6). Moreover, CDA differs from DA by questioning the power relations that structure discourses and trying to find viable ways to overthrow them. To quote Wodak, “Power does not derive from language, but language can be used to challenge power, to subvert it, to alter distributions of power in the short and long term. Language provides a finely articulated means for differences in power and social hierarchical structures” (Wodak 2001: 11).

Language is not something ephemeral, but has a material relevance. As we have said elsewhere (Desiderio 2012), architecture and urban space “do not have just a physical dimension, but also a discursive and narrative structure. Our knowledge of architecture and space takes place primarily – and often solely – through media discourses, narratives and representations, which then mediate the way in which we experience them. The very words constructing discourses on architecture, space and cities deeply affect the way in which these are experienced and practiced in terms of who owns them, who has the right to access them, how they have to be used”. There also exists a strong relation between the way in which people are described and the way in which space is re-constructed. As we will see later in this work, representation of people produces a simultaneous representation of the practices they enact in space and, consequently of the space they create. Representation of people has therefore an intrinsic spatial relevance. Defining ‘us’ and ‘them’ by distinguishing between ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ practices, news paper representation reinforces the distinction between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ and the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion from urban space.

As a social and cultural construction relying on the active role of language, urban space and architecture are not neutral: they convey meanings. According to Umberto Eco, they are “sign vehicles” expressing denoted (functional) as well as connoted (symbolic and ideological) meanings (Eco 1997: 184). Both these meanings are culturally constructed. To make an example, the shopping centre denotes a function – that of selling, buying and consuming goods – which is nonetheless cultural, since it is originally a product of western culture and way of life. Such a denoted meaning is then complemented by a connoted meaning, for the shopping centre does not just denotes its primary function, but also connotes a symbolic function. Indeed, a glittering shopping centre sells not just goods, but the idea of enacting a ‘cool’ lifestyle. In this way the simple act of buying goods goes beyond the most immediate fact of buying things to satisfy specific needs and becomes a statement of social status. It gains in other words a connoted meaning. Such meaning is not an intrinsic quality of the shopping centre and is instead constructed through language. It is through language that people describe things, which then acquire their qualities and hence can be known. Architecture and urban space too are enframed by language for it is language (in this case news reporting language) that inform people about what architectural and urban space are for, what practices can and what cannot be enacted, who belongs and who does not belong in such space, to whom it belongs.

Newspaper Analysis

In an article on the presence of some Romanians Roma in Park Lane, London (“Dirty, drunk and defiant… meet the Romanian gypsies defiling Park Lane”, The Sun, 18 May 2012), the author (Amy Jones) establishes a two-level association: the Romanian Roma with antisocial behaviours, posh Park Lane with upper-middle class and aristocracy. The title itself provides some elements to reflect upon. In terms of transitivity, we find that the agent of the “defiling” is clearly and unequivocally explicated. The title could have been written in the passive form without an agent as, for example: Park Lane getting defiled. In that case the subject of the article would be the fact of Park Lane being defiled. Even in that case the author could have chosen to construct the title without a precise agent: “Meet dirty, drunk and defiant people defiling Park Lane”. The aim of the author, instead, is to provide an evidence of Gypsies’ bad behaviours and of how negatively these affect the surrounding environment. Therefore we have a precisely identified agent, the “Romanian Gypsies”, with precisely specified characteristics, “Dirty, drunk and defiant”, so that the act of “defiling” become racialised. As a whole the title indicates the author’s intention to create negative social category and stereotype.

The first three paragraphs provide an example of how the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ as instances of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is constructed. “As I survey the expensive hotels and elite car dealerships that line one of London’s most exclusive streets, Princess Beatrice wanders past. This is one of the poshest postcodes in Britain, yet just a Champagne cork’s pop away is a squalid, stinking gypsy camp. Earlier this week The Sun told how dozens of homeless Romanians had invaded the plush W1 location, turning the wide grassy central reservation of swanky Park Lane into a filthy, makeshift camp”. The difference between what Park Lane should be and how it actually appears, is constructed through the juxtaposition of strikingly contrasting images. The reader is presented with the image of a street of “expensive hotels” and “elite car dealerships” where Princess Beatrice is seen wandering past, and at the same time with the image of a “squalid, stinking gypsy camp”. Such juxtaposition of contrasting images is constructed in the third paragraph as a ‘process’. The process is expressed by the verb “to turn”, which tells the reader that the “wide grassy central reservation of swanky Park Lane” is transformed into “a filthy, makeshift camp”. Once again, the agent causing the transformation is clearly identified with “dozens homeless Romanians”. The author also employs hyperbole – “dozens” – in order to further impress the reader and put more emphasis on the negative consequences that a great number of Romanian Roma might have on Park Lane.

Syntax and verbs are combined to provide an ‘objective’ image of the decay and abandonment caused by gypsies. Syntax is paratactic: “The stench of human waste hangs heavily in the air. The silence is deafening. No one is talking. There are about dozen people enclosed in this filthy base when I arrive. They turn tired, deflated faces towards me that momentarily brighten – until it becomes clear I have no money to give them”. As Fairclough explains talking about the representation of global economy as an impersonal process, paratactic syntax is used to project the sense of a “relentless accumulation of evidence of change […] which firmly establishes the new economy as simple fact; what we must live with and respond to” (Fairclough 1995: 132). In the article we are discussing, the form of paratactic syntax is functional to the construction of a specific content: that of the accumulation of the negative effects of Romanies’ presence and actions. To represent this as an objective evidence, the author talks in the present tense, indicative mode, which, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English, expresses statements of facts. “I spend the day at the camp, watching the gypsies smoke, drink themselves senseless and gamble away the coins they’ve made through begging on nearby Oxford Street”. “The men openly urinate against walls and trees while the women relieve themselves through their tights”. In this way, reprehensible and socially unacceptable actions such as “smoking”, “drinking ”, “gambling”, “urinating against walls” are represented as what Romanian Roma actually and normally do.

Reported speech plays a critical role in newspaper discourse. It is employed to corroborate an opinion, to present a point of view as true, to prove that what is told in the news report is what really happens. The relevance of reported speech, therefore, does not lie in what it reports, nor even in whether what is reported is true or not, but in how it is constructed and in what it signifies. The author writes: “Gardener Selma Chaib, 46, said: ‘I’ve seen them coming out of Sainsbury’s in Marble Arch with big bottles of vodka at 9am. When we get down we have to pick up all the rubbish — it’s horrible. There’s bottles, bags and faeces. There’s faeces all over the place, it’s disgusting. It’s a health risk’”. At stake here is not whether or not there are bottles, bags and faeces all over the place, but how reported speech is constructed so to make the reader know that it is Romanies who leave waste in public space works. As Richardson reminds us, important in such a construction is the reporting clause. “There is a world of difference – he explains – between introducing a quotation with ‘John said…’ or ‘John claimed…’ or ‘John revealed…’ or ‘ John admitted…’ or the wide variety of alternative verbal processes” (Richardson 2007: 102). By introducing the quotation with “Gardener Selma Chaib, 46, said” the author turns the gardener’s words (which we do not know how much an exact description of what is happening the constitute, for they can either correspond to reality or be distorted by anger or xenophobic feelings) into something true and unquestionable.

Relevant to the representation of Romanies in news reporting is the imaging strategies informing pictures: what they depict, how they depict it, the relations between captions and images. The very same criterion of juxtaposition employed in describing Romanies is employed in images construction. The first image of the article depicts a group of Romanies, some of whom sitting on the ground, some others exchanging objects, while in the centre there is a woman doing the ‘V’ sign. The picture closes on them so that the reader has no clue about the surroundings. One might expect that the picture has been taken in some of London’s degraded areas. A surprise effect comes from the caption, which tells the reader that the photograph has been taken in “London’s prestigious Park Lane”. As the picture provides no precise clue of what kind of activities the Romanies are engaged in, the reader is immediately informed by the title that the Romanies’ sitting on the ground, exchanging objects, saluting is instead “defiling”. Very significantly, the caption opens with a quotation in which a Roma woman is reported to say: “English people are pigs”. What is interesting to note is that the reader is not given any supporting information about the context of the quotation: that is, of the dialogue between the reporter and the woman, which might explain what caused this latter to talk like that. Only later in the article the reader is given the chance to figure out that who is talking is an old woman exhausted by very hard life conditions: lack of money, job, opportunities and of comfortable place to live.

As Richardson notes, “text cannot be viewed or studied in isolation since texts are not produced or consumed in isolation: all texts exist, and therefore must be understood, in relation to other texts” (ibid.: 100). Discourses are open texts, each of them re-formulating, re-reading and re-interpreting the previous ones. The newspaper article we have analysed so far is part of a discourse which is at a larger scale that of Roma migrants from Eastern to Western Europe, while is at a smaller scale The Sun representation of Romanies’ presence in London. The author opens the third paragraph by writing: “Earlier this week The Sun told how dozens homeless Romanians had invaded the plush W1 location…”. The use of the adverb “earlier” implies that the article is a further development of an issue that has been previously dealt with.

Despite being written by a different journalist, the previous report (“Romanian beggars set up camp on London’s posh Park Lane”) significantly employs the same strategy of juxtaposition between contrasting images (Gary O’Shea and Emily Nash 2012). We in fact read in the headline: “Romanians beggars set up camp on London’s posh Park Lane”. The title does not just refer to “Romanians” but to “Romanian beggars” and not just to “Park Lane”, but to “posh Park Lane”. The “setting up of a camp” links together gypsies and Park Lane. A relation between two ‘incompatible’ subjects is thus established with the aim to arouse the reader’s indignation. It is also worth focusing the attention on the opening picture and caption. The picture only shows some people standing and sitting on the ground. The reader is not given any precise clue either of what these people are really doing or of their nationality. It is the caption – “Gambling… Romanians on millionaires’ row” – that informs us that these people are Romanians and that they are gambling. Again, the author constructs an opposition between “Romanians” (who could also have been referred to as ‘people’) and Park Lane the “millionaires’ row” (which could have been referred to just as a “street”). In the same way as before, the “gambling” links the ‘Romanians’ with the “millionaires’ row” so to arouse the sense of an unsettling contrast.

According to Richardson, journalists are quite often unable to give an objective description of events; for this reason, they use rhetorical strategies in order to convince readers to analyse the event through the same perspective (ibid.: 65). It is possible to see the use of a rhetorical figure, metonymy, in the following headline of an iDNES article: “In the hostels of Varnsdorf reside 167 Roma; just three go to work” (Viktora 29/08/2011). Here, “167 Roma” is used as paradigmatic of all Roma people living in the Czech Republic. The reader can be easily persuaded to believe that Roma are intrinsically lazy people exploiting national social benefits, as the following sentence shows: “All tenants live with social benefits. Among 167, just three go to work. One of them is Mr. Zdeněk. He is about a forty-years Rom with deep wrinkles on the forehead and heavily tattooed arms” (ibid.). This sentence, apart from providing information about a Romani way of life, uses a referential strategy, predication, to describe and represent the features of the social actors more vividly. This article strongly contributes to a negative construction of the Romani image. In addition to the considerations developed so far, the author highlights Romani addiction to drugs (ibid.). The dangerousness of Romani children is also stressed: “‘From the hostels grows a larger generation of children. Criminality is a usual part of life for children who have never known a different lifestyle. Adults know that minors cannot be punished, so they send them to plunder,’ describes the mayor of Varnsdorf, Martin Louka” (ibid.). The important aspect of this direct quotation is the use of the verb “describes” at the end of the sentence. The verb “to describe” implies an unbiased representation of a situation. The reader hence understands that the situation is not the interpretation of a single person, but actually exists as described by the mayor of the town.

The following article, from Novinky, describes the debate about the growth of criminality and the uneasy coexistence between the majority population and Roma people, referring to the gathering of ethnic Czechs in the cinema Panorama in Varnsdorf: “In Varnsdorf hundreds of people have demonstrated against the growth of criminality” (, 02/09/2011). Once again, through its construction, the headline presupposes the definite rise of crime on one side, and on the other, the connection between such growth and the presence of Roma people in the area. In addition to this, referential strategies are also employed: Roma are described as “socially inadaptable” and “problematic residents”. Furthermore, the article includes an exclamation shouted by the crowds of demonstrators: “Gypsies go to work”. In analysing these four words, two issues arise: firstly, the word “Gypsy” is again a referential strategy, since the term indicates a particular social status; what is more, it fixes Roma in a category, simultaneously excluding them from other possible categories. By choosing the word “Gypsy” as well as the words “inadaptable” and “problematic” to describe the Roma group, the author of the article has accomplished many social and political purposes (in accordance with Richardson 2007: 49). The quotation included in this article – “Gypsies go to work” – has a peremptory aspect. The reader is led to understand that the idea of Roma as lazy people is more than a shared belief: it is an unquestionable matter of fact. It is possible to deduce that the author of the article, in reporting this quotation, is serving a social and cultural purpose of separating ‘them’ (lazy) from ‘us’ (hard workers). Here, just as in the previous articles, the voice of the counterpart (Roma people) is absent; the whole description of the events is seen through a Czech perspective, further perpetuating populist, ultra-nationalist feelings.


Far from being ephemeral, language has a spatial relevance. Adjectives such as “inadaptable” and “problematic” entail the representation of practices that are disruptive of social life. Romanies are in fact reported to drink, gamble, plunder, living waste and more in general to engage in criminal activities. That reinforces prejudices against them and further their physical marginalisation. The “hostel” becomes in Czech anti-Roma news reporting the metaphor of Romani ‘unadaptativity’. Still, Romanies are not acknowledged any right to ‘escape’ hostels and confinement. In the Czech Republic, Romani children are in fact sent in ‘special’ schools for disabled children. This prevents them to have a good education, gain a proper job and live in decent life conditions, only assuring them deprivation. In this way a vicious circle of marginalisation and blame is perpetuated. Although in London Romani children are not confined in ‘special’ schools as in the Czech Republic, Romanies are blamed for living in camps, in other words, for refusing a ‘normal’ way of life. Nevertheless, they are not allowed to live outside camps, which however have to be outside public view. In both cases, despite the absence of a formal ban, there is a material and tangible ghettoisation of Romanies from public space, both in the Czech Republic and in London.

Implying the representation of practices – which necessarily take place in space – the construction of ‘Romanies’ as a social category has proved to have an intrinsic spatial relevance. The articles we have analysed constitute in fact a three levels binary representation – which are produced simultaneously. The construction of the difference between ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ involves the representation of contrasting practices (say high-end shopping vs. gambling, begging and plundering), which in turn entails the representation of space (the insiders’ clean, ordered and exclusive space vs. the outsiders’ dirty camps and hostels). Such a multilevel representation deeply affects the way in which space is represented, re-constructed and, hence, practiced; for to say who does what in the space means to say who belongs and who does not belong in the space and, therefore, who the space belongs to.


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Fairclough, N. (1995) Critical Discourse Analysis. The Critical Study of Language, London: Longman

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Quasthoff, U. M. (1989) “Social prejudice as resource of power: towards the functional ambivalence of stereotypes”, from Ruth Wodak (ed.) Language, Power and Ideology, Vol.7, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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Online Newspapers

Amy Jones (18-05-2012), “Dirty, drunk and defiant… meet the Romanian gypsies defiling Park Lane”, from The Sun,

Gary O’Shea and Emily Nash (16-05-2012), “Romanian beggars set up camp on London’s posh Park Lane”, from The Sun,, Pravo (02/09/2011), Ve Varnsdorfu demonstrovaly stovky lidí proti nárůstu criminalità

Viktora Antonín (29/08/2011), Ve varnsdorfské ubytovně bydlí 167 Romů, do práce chodí tři,

Architecture as Image. An Investigation of Branding Space and Surface Architecture

The subject of this research is the so-called Surface Architecture, which is explored at the intersection between the Branding of Urban Space and the Transformation of Culture into Image. The case studies that I consider are: the One New Change and the W London in London, and the Romeo hotel in Naples. The research is my final dissertation for the MA in Architectural History at the UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture. Download PDF.