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Chapter 1 positions the figure of the digital nomad as an avatar for Silicon Valley imperialism. It investigates how the landing of digital nomads and Western tech in Cluj cannibalizes Roma housing and personhood, updating presocialist racial property logics. It also shows how the digital nomad, while complicit in postsocialist processes of gentrification, discursively recodes Orientalist fantasies of the “free and wandering Gypsy,” a literary trope that emerged within the heart of nineteenth-century Western Europe to allegorize imperiality. The deracinated nomad’s renewed fetishization today indexes Silicon Valley’s imperial status while transiting presocialist private property relations into postsocialist times. To better illustrate Silicon Valley imperial violence but also resistance to it, the chapter engages in a close reading of a storymapping project that was coproduced with C??i Sociale Acum! (Social Housing Now!) alongside ethnographic work assessing the racial geographies of digital nomadism and smart city production.

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