EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Roma/Gypsy resilience beyond marginality?

Location S-412
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 11:00


Catalina Tesar (Museum of the Romanian Peasant) email
Martin Fotta (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main) email
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Short Abstract

We invite contributions based on intimate yet multifaceted ethnographic portrayals of diverse Romany people as enmeshed in relations with others to conceptualize resilience and diversity of Roma/Gypsies socio-cosmological figurations, beyond structural explanations and marginality.

Long Abstract

The fall of the Iron Curtain engendered the supplementing and even replacing of national CEE ethnologies grounded in ahistorical views of peasantry with anthropologies attuned to broader political economies. Likewise, stimulated by an intensified conversation across national traditions, a growing body of scholarship emerged in the field of Romany studies, overcoming the old interest in Gypsy folklore and customs with an approach that examines these populations' cosmological choices as a product of their lives amidst non-Gypsies. The concept of marginality, in which the analysis of European power disparities and socio-political restructuring mapped along state borders was coached, seemed to be the most appropriate to characterize the structural position of Romany populations. Thus certain Romany attitudes towards time, work and personhood appeared as subversions of the dominant values and responses to encapsulation by the majority (Stewart 1997). Recent reconfigurations of the EU witnessed intensified spatial and social movement - downward and upward - of Gypsies; today, in individual populations, we find a whole spectrum of socio-economic positions and cultural configurations from extreme poverty to affluence, from representing lives in "tradition" to those from which socio-cultural orientation seems absent, from political disenfranchisement to ethnic activism, from localized to cosmopolitan existences; therefore, the question : Is there an alternative to conceptualising resilience and diversity of Romany socio-cosmological figurations through structural explanations? In order to rethink the persistence of Gypsies beyond marginality, we invite contributions that provide multifaceted ethnographic portrayals of diverse Romany populations as enmeshed in intimate and historically contingent relations with others.

Discussant: Jan Grill (University of Manchester)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Liberating Gadje imagination via grounded Roma identity politics in Slovakia

Author: Andrej Belak (Charles University in Prague)  email

Short Abstract

At the applied end of my medical anthropological research, I keep receiving the following: When confronted with ethnographically grounded Roma identity politics, imagination of those non-Roma who qualify as Gadje becomes forced outside its Enlightenment box due to anarchist features of Roma cosmology.

Long Abstract

As eloquently explained by David Graeber in his Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, adopting identity politics usually prevents authentic emancipation of those suppressed, assisting instead dominant nation-statist political paradigms. According to my personal experience however, Roma identity politics drawn from ethnographic accounts of segregated Roma communities might offer a promising exception to this rule in both respects. Since 2004, the leading applied question of my fieldwork has been: how and why might who be contributing to the relatively miserable health-status of segregated Roma in Slovakia? After spending initial years among segregated Roma themselves, lately I have moved on to join the country's health-system professionals who happen to work mostly on behalf of this Roma subgroup. Along this trajectory, I am naturally being pulled into discussions about 'realistic' options for improving Roma health-status - by physicians, media, politicians, etc. For lack of better discourses at such fora, when attempting to stress both practical and moral significances of the hardly known specific reasoning and preferences of majority of segregated Roma, I often find myself negotiating something as a specific identity. Nevertheless, the very content of my 'Roma identity with respect to biomedicine' appears compatible with other ethnography on segregated Roma from across Europe - especially in terms of exhibiting a strong anti-Gadje logic. Thanks to such oppositional aspects, rather than conforming itself to usual expectations of the non-Romany discussants the thus grounded Roma identity stance instead seems automatically to open as legitimate questions of reasonability of respective Gadje ways initially considered self-evident.

Seen as marginal: when you do not want in

Author: László Fosztó (ISPMN Cluj, Romania)  email

Short Abstract

Roma/Gypsies has been described by the literature as ‘Groups that don’t want in’. This presentation will look at the contrasting expectations of the majorities and the Roma themselves on the frustrations of the majority expectations for ‘fitting in’ based on a local case study from Transylvania, Romania.

Long Abstract

Roma/Gypsies has been described by the literature as 'Groups that don't want in' (Gmelch ‎1986). They make their living independently by and maintain their separateness in the midst of the majority populations, and they their concepts about being connected and 'socially integrated' differ from what of the outsiders. Therefore they are seen as marginal or living in a different temporality. This presentation will look at the contrasting expectations of the majorities and the Roma themselves on the frustrations of the majority expectations for 'fitting in' being or being included based on a local case study from Transylvania, Romania.

Etho-ecology of Calon moneylending

Author: Martin Fotta (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores inseparability but not dependence between Calon framing and maintaining of their moneylending practices and the socio-economic milieu to which these practices belong.

Long Abstract

Within the past decades, a population of Calon Gypsies living in Bahia, Brazil, has been specializing as moneylenders. Drawing inspiration from etho-ecological perspective (Stengers 2005) and the performativity paradigm (Callon 2007), the paper explores inseparability but not dependence between Calon framing and maintaining of their economic practices and the socio-economic milieu to which these practices belong. It will characterize the emergence of moneylending within the context of financialisation of the daily life in Bahia and felicity conditions determining 'truthfulness' of these practices and statements about the world they enact (such as about what does it mean to 'make the future'). This approach seems useful in suggesting how a change in a milieu might cause transformation of "ethos" of practices, resulting in a situated character of economic activities and the variability of values, meanings and life-worlds that ethnographies of Gypsies have consistently revealed.

Generational change of Roma graduates: the impact of social resilience

Author: Dezső Máté (Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre for Social Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

In my research I examine how the handicaps arising from the competency-deficient education system influence the new "meta identity” of young graduated Roma people in Hungary and try to explore the main characteristics of these resilienced people.

Long Abstract

The proportion of graduated Roma people in Hungary have increased in 2000's. Due to the development of education system in Hungary, Roma children were able to participate and get different qualifications in larger number. However, the Hungarian education system still remains discriminative and segregative. Because of these characters children involved in the education system have to faced with different barriers, what is more they did not get inmportant competencies which are needed for the development of someone's identity. This disadvantage forced them fulfil the requirements determined by the school system. Through this fulfilment they achieved higher scores which helped them to get in higher social classes as well. These resilianced Roma people created a new identity which differentiates from the identity of majority and minority social classes. This paper focuses on this new identity which I call "meta identity". In my research I examine how the handicaps arised from the competency-deficient education system influence this new "meta identity" of young graduated Roma people in Hungary and try to explore the main characteristics of these resilienced people. Through this examination I also try to conceptualise their integration process to the society.

Ambiguous belongings and the multiplicity of 'beings': Pentecostal Kaale subjectivities in the practice of Finnish life

Author: Raluca Bianca Roman (University of St Andrews)  email

Short Abstract

Through intimate ethnographic encounters and portraits of individual Pentecostal Kaale, this paper complicates structuralist approaches to ‘Roma cosmologies’ by exploring the multiplicity of belongings and understandings of the self among what is considered a traditional Roma community in Finland

Long Abstract

Informed by my ongoing ethnographic fieldwork among Pentecostal Kaale (Roma) in South-East Finland, this paper problematizes the socio-historical embeddedness and the diversity within Roma socio-cosmologies in present-day Finnish society.

Members of a recognized minority, the Kaale individuals I have met over the past year challenge yet reinforce theoretical understandings of the structuralist Roma/non-Roma binaries. On the one hand, they highlight what they regard as age-old customs within the Kaale society (rules regarding shame and bodily pollution; a Kaale-specific dress code; a gender-divided society) and maintain 'distinction' from the mainstream, through the enhancement of perceived traditional practices. On the other hand, they are religiously active in multi-ethnic Pentecostal churches and their daily struggles for both social and religious significance often merge ideals of 'social becomings' within Finnish society (being technologically savvy, striving for education, employment and social engagement) with the desires for a betterment of their 'Christian selves'. They recurrently question their social history, the destinies of their individual lives and the meaning of their own Kaale identity, being thus actively engaged in the practical and narrative molding of their historical, present and 'future selves'.

Through their own personal narratives, vignettes of life and intimate encounters, I argue that such existential journeys highlight how diverse types of subjectivities (being a Kaale, a member of Finnish society, a Pentecostal Christian) collide and converse in the practice of social life, challenging us to question the utility of 'marginality' as a broad analytical term in understanding the multi-layered dimensions of Roma 'socio-cosmologies'.

The work of begging and the issue of shame among Romanian Cortorari Gypsies

Author: Catalina Tesar (Museum of the Romanian Peasant)  email

Short Abstract

This paper proposes that Romanian Cortorari Gypsies understandings of begging intimate configurations of the person as constituted through two kinds of relations at a time: one founded on “mutuality of being” (Sahlins) and one grounded on exclusion of Gadge from kin.

Long Abstract

This paper seeks to unpack the meanings attached to begging as practiced by Romanian Cortorari Gypsies abroad. It takes as a starting point of inquiry the feelings of shame I experienced when I myself engaged in begging as part of my fieldwork. I show that for Gypsy practitioners begging is linked to particular work ethics, which rather than being merely an ideological reversion of the mainstream ethics (as Stewart would have had it), is a corollary of conceptions of the person. Cortorari conceive of begging as work which combines peculiar rhetoric and bodily skills, physical movement within the territory, knowledge of economic potential of different places and most of all a specific mode of being a a Cortorari both in relation to their respective fellow Gypsies and to Gadge. Specific configurations of the person as enmeshed in webs of relatedness throw light on the mastery of the art of begging. Belonging to kin is expressed through relational notions of respect and shame. When they engage in begging, Gypsies assert themselves as persons by maintaining these internal notions while denying to the Gadge the capacity to achieve a similar ontological status. Vernacular conceptions of begging (manglimos) go beyond pan-European understanding of charity/ unilateral gift, in which ideas of clemency for the have-nots intertwine with mere economic reasoning.

Affective labour: "somatic modes of attention", emotion, and marginality in Gypsy musical performances

Author: Aspasia Theodosiou (Epirus Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

The article touches upon the relationships among gypsy musical performances, labor and affect.

Long Abstract

The article will explore the relationships among gypsy musical performances, labor and affect. It draws on long-term anthropological fieldwork among a group of Gypsy musicians living next to the Greek Albanian border. Drawing on Deleuzian formulations of affect, the anthropology of Gypsies, anthropological accounts of embodiment, and the theory of "immaterial labour", the paper will investigate how affect is mobilised in distinct performance contexts to produce diverse subjectivities; how affect is integral to the formation of a community of marginal subjects, who labour in the radically shifting economic and social circumstances of neo-liberal capitalism. In highlighting an embodied economy of affect, the article will explore the way such economy is being translated into shifting boundaries and alignments between and among Gypsy and non-Gypsy groups in a context of changing economic and social relations in Greece

This engagement of Gypsy musical labour and affect is of particular importance: on the one hand it sets out to explore how working as a gypsy musician conforms to the concepts of immaterial and affective labour as understood by Maurizio Lazzarato and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri respectively. In so doing it challenges various dichotomizations (e.g. music/work) and engages critically with the discussion engendered by the anthropology of Gypsies (e.g. M. Stewart) about the link between Gypsies' marginality and their ideas about work. On the other, it questions the all too often under-theorised link between music, embodiment and emotion/sentiment/affect, and considers musicians' affective labour as a potential site for understanding the connection between socio-economic transformations, affective transactions and their so called marginality.

Fusion or fission? The everyday economy of alterity in multiethnic communities in Romania

Author: Stefania Toma (Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities)  email

Short Abstract

I will discuss on the example of two rural localities that contact between members of different ethnic groups contributes to equilibrum in the locality or at least to maintaining ethnic conflicts on a dormant level, while hiatus of such relationships makes conflicts more salient.

Long Abstract

Ethnic alterity/difference and ethnic conflict remains largely discussed among social scientists, being contextualised through present-day social processes. In this article I will discuss on the example of two rural localities that contact between members of different ethnic groups contributes to equilibrum in the locality or at least to maintaining ethnic conflicts on a dormant level, while hiatus of such relationships makes conflicts more salient.

I will show on one hand, the way the "alterity" of Romanian Roma is constructed by the surrounding majority and shaped by different socio-economic factors. Using Wexler's conceptualization, I will argue that the way local majority communities approach the Roma communities through a screen (eg. mass-media discourse) or simply just screening (through every-day contacts) them, produces a shift in structuring the alterity of the Roma communities: it could change from the Dangerous Outsider through Significant Other to My Gypsy.

Furthermore, I will argue that this shift from Dangerous Outsider to the less prejudiced My Gypsy largely depends on the existing social networks. I will use the example of Godparenthood between Roma and non-Roma. In the context of general mistrust, inequality, negative preconceptions and even hatred regarding Roma, the practice of the Roma families to bond with Hungarian persons/families through godparenthood gains particular importance (by transforming begging and charity into gifting they reduce social distance, dissolve the rule of reciprocity) which is deployed on different levels of sociality.

The article is based on extensive qualitative fieldwork in different multiethnic communities in Transylvania (Romania).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.