Dr Massimo Aresu

Marie Curie Research Fellow – University of Leeds


Massimo Aresu is an historian specialized in the study of the Gypsy presence in the Mediterranean area, in the Early-Modern era (16th-17th century). After a degree in storia moderna from the University of Cagliari (1997), he received a PhD in Histoire et Civilisation from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris (2012). His PhD thesis was entitled La coexistence oubliée: Tsiganes, pouvoirs et construction de la déviance dans la Sardaigne d’Ancien régime, and was written under the supervision of Professor Bernard Vincent. In 2013, he received the Qualification aux fonctions de maître de conférences in French universities (renewed in 2019).

With the support of archival sources (often unpublished), his studies try to move beyond the reductive vision of Gypsies as an indomitable minority that was always marginal and relentlessly persecuted. In the Early Modern Era, for example, this paradigm is proven for some areas but not others. In this context, his research aims at analyzing the relations that groups of various denominations, within the “Gypsy galaxy”, created not only with secular and religious institutions, but also with other players in the social scene. His research shows that no broad reconstruction of the history of the Gypsy populations can be carried out without a proper understanding of the specificity of each historical, geographical, and social context.

At present, he works as Marie Curie Sklodowska Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Leeds, in the unit of Spanish Portuguese and Latino American Studies (SPLAS) of the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (LCS). His research project is entitled Mediterranean Gypsies. A forgotten history beyond diaspora, nomadism, marginality in three Western Mediterranean areas of the Spanish Crown (Andalusia, Sicily, Sardinia, 16th-early 18th century), and is supervised by Dr Gregorio Alonso. His collaboration with the University of Leeds started in 2017, when he was awarded a Brotherton Short-Term Postdoctoral Fellowship for the project Beyond Repression: New Insights on the History of Gitanos through the documents of the Fraser Collection at the University of Leeds, funded by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (LHRI) and mentored by Dr Gregorio Alonso.

Since 2002 he is a member of the Seminario permanente di Studi Rom e Antropologia Sociale, founded and led by Professor Leonardo Piasere at the University of Florence (2001-2005) and then at the University of Verona (now led by Dr. Stefania Pontrandolfo at the same university). Since 2002 he is also a regular contributor to the seminar Approches interdisciplinaires des sociétés romani/tsiganes at the Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales at the EHESS in Paris (previously: Histoire des minorités migrantes en Europe de l’ancien régime a nos jours: histoire des tsiganes d’Europe), led by Henriette Asséo until 2012 and now coordinated by Dr. Ilsen About. Since 2019, he sits in the research committee of the digital history project Comunicazioni interne e migrazioni coordinated by Dr. Giampaolo Salice (University of Cagliari).

He has presented his work at conferences and workshops in Italy, France, UK, Spain, and Iceland, and published articles and chapters in academic journals and collective volumes. Among his publications are Zingari: una storia sociale, a themed issue of Quaderni Storici, 146/2 (2014) coedited with Henriette Asseo, and I Cingari nell’Italia dell’antico regime, vol. V of the series Italia romaní (Roma: CISU, 2008) coedited with Leonardo Piasere. For a full list of publications, please see Massimo’s CV.

Between 1996 and 2014 he was a member of the executive committee of Istituto Sardo per la Storia della Resistenza e dell’Autonomia (ISSRA), which was the Sardinian branch of the Istituto Nazionale per la Storia del Movimento della Liberazione in Italia (INSMLI). In 2005-09 he was an invited member in the Consulta sull’immigrazione of the Sardinian Regional Government (Regione Automa della Sardegna /RAS).

In Sardinia, he has long-term collaborations with NGOs, cultural associations and organisers of cultural and social initiatives (e.g.: Babel Film Festival of Linguistic Minorities; Amnesty International; Laboratorio 28; Caritas; Sucania; ASCE/Associazione Sarda Contro l’Emarginazione). Furthermore, he has presented his work beyond academia in public talks and seminars, as well as at radio programmes (e.g. Radio Press, Cagliari, Radio Rai Sardegna, both in Italian and in Sardinian). In Leeds, he collaborates with the cultural activities of the Cervantes Institute.

Dr Gregorio Alonso

Associate Professor – University of Leeds


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