Prague Forum for Romani Histories

“Towards the state of exception: Roma in Polish police journals in 1920–1939”


Romani History Seminar

Wednesday, 19 January 2022, 5:30 PM (CET)

Author: Piotr Wawrzeniuk (Swedish Defence University):

Discussant: Jennifer Illuzzi (Providence College, USA)

The article analyses Polish police narrative on Roma in the interwar time, unveiling attitudes  and potential practices. According to the police journals and handbooks, Roma were mobile  and disposed to theft and deceit. Their traditional crafts were merely a screen smoke for illicit  activities. As countermeasures, searches of caravans, meticulous checks of identity  documents, indiscriminate fingerprinting of Roma suspects among several measures, were  recommended. The narrative constituted a part of larger police professional discourse, and is  likely to be an indicator as to practices on Roma. Polish police followed the contemporary  European expertise on Roma produced by the fields of criminalistics and criminology. As  there was no discriminatory laws targeting Roma in Poland, police seems to have worked  within a virtual ‘state of exception’, sidestepping the law. This was one of two options  employed in Europe by the time, discriminatory laws being the second one.

Zoom registration is required:

Workshop participants have access to the draft article via a GoogleDrive link provided in the Zoom registration confirmation email. The article will be uploaded to the folder one week before the meeting.

Piotr Wawrzeniuk works as senior lecturer in military history at the Department of War Studies and Military History at Swedish Defence University. His current research interests encompass military history of the interwar time, and Polish and Ukrainian modern history. In 2012–2017, he headed the project Roma Genocide in Ukraine at Södertörn University, Sweden.

Jennifer Illuzzi is an associate professor of history at Providence College.  She focuses on the intersections between institutional history and diasporic populations, particularly the Romani population in Europe. She studies modern German and Italian history, focusing on social and political history, and particularly gender history, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Her publications include “Stories of a Life Together” in Erreffe 74 (2019), “Reimagining Colony and Metropole:  Images of Italy and Libya during the Italo-Turkish War, 1911-1912” in Gender and History 30 (2018), and Gypsies in Germany and Italy, 1861-1914:  Lives Outside the Law (2014).

Please note that the papers presented at the workshop have not yet been published. As a participant in the Romani History Workshop, you hereby agree to respect the intellectual property of the authors, i.e. not to reproduce, distribute, display, or use their papers, parts of their papers, or their primary sources in any way.

The Romani History Workshop hosts monthly online discussions of unpublished texts. It brings together specialists in Romani history and scholars from related fields, who provide collective feedback to dissertation chapters, draft papers, and book chapters in an engaging, constructively critical, and supportive environment. All workshop meetings are announced at:

If you would like to workshop your text in one of the upcoming meetings in February, March, April, May, or June 2022, please contact one of the organizers. The schedule is usually set a month in advance.

Organizing team
Renata Berkyová (,
Théophile Leroy (,
Vita Zalar (

Subscribe to our newsletter