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Roma communities today Historical background, culture and current issues -Week 13 Class 1: Svinia: Case study/ -Gitanos case study ANTH 4020/5020.

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Presentation on theme: "Roma communities today Historical background, culture and current issues -Week 13 Class 1: Svinia: Case study/ -Gitanos case study ANTH 4020/5020."— Presentation transcript:

1 Roma communities today Historical background, culture and current issues -Week 13 Class 1: Svinia: Case study/ -Gitanos case study ANTH 4020/5020

2 Today‘s outline 1.Scheffel Ch. One: A fragmented community 2.Scheffel Ch. Two: Inside the osada 3.Gay y Blasco: We don‘t know our descent

3 David Scheffel (2005) “Svinia in black and white” Chapter One: A fragmented community

4 Case study of Svinia - Intro “Despite its central European location, it resembles a third-world slum marked by unemployment, internal exploitation, violence, substance abuse, and resignation. Wedged into a village inhabited by ethnic Slovaks whose views of the Roma are openly racist, the dark- skinned squatters on the margins of Svinia are segregated from the surrounding society by physical and social barriers entrenched in local ideology and enforced by rules and conventions reminiscent of apartheid.” (p. 11)

5 Svinia is located at eastern periphery of European Union Hundreds of similar settlements inhabited by Slovak Roma exist Case of Svinia offers insights into topics of global significance: - questions of inter-ethnic tolerance - social exclusion of minorities - political & cultural conditions allowing modernization Investigation of social, cultural and historical context in order to understand “what went wrong” Case study of Svinia - Intro

6 Segregation of village and “ghetto” “But the peace, order and affluence of the village are not extended to all of its residents. Tucked away on Svinia’s northern margin, and barely visible to an unwitting visitor, the Romani ghetto conveys a much less serene impression. More than seven hundred noisy and dirty cigani – as they are called locally – make their living here amidst heaps of garbage, confined to an assortment of slum-like dwellings in which no ethnic Slovak would ever live. Marked by race, poverty, and powerlessness, the residents of the ghetto constitute a profoundly segregated and in many respects oppressed enclave” (p. 18)

7 Segregation of two population groups is expressed in the locally used terms “blacks” and “whites” Officially two settlements belong to one municipality  all inhabitants have same rights and privileges  services related to education, health, social security, housing, pastoral care. But: statistics on municipal, regional or state level say nothing about the existing division  1991 national census: 1080 residents (no Roma) Just some examples of segregation: - no Roma in municipal daycare - elementary school divided among ethnic lines - Roma kids excluded from cafeteria & school club Segregation of village and “ghetto”

8 The setting “Osada (…) best translated as “settlement”, it refers to communities more durable than a camp but less rooted than a village. A cluster of summer cottages becomes an osada, as does an isolated hamlet stuck in the middle of nowhere. Unlike a proper village, a Romani settlement lacks genuine foundations. Its history remains obscure, and its boundaries are subject to periodic shifts in response to demands of the villagers” (p. 20)

9 700 Roma on 2 hectares of swampy land 650 Slovak villagers on 50 hectares of residential land plus forests, fields, meadows … Built environment is also racialized: Roma are only tolerated to use the main street (not the side streets) Roma can use the post office, medical clinic and mayor’s office but not the community center, and not the bar in the former castle … The setting

10 The people – “whites" “(…) the main obstacle in my quest for accomodation was the prospect that we might invite Roma to visit us in our rented premises. At long last, we found someone willing to rent us an unused cottage in the back yard, but the demand that I sign an undertaking promising not to allow any Roma to enter our premises seemed so bizarre that we abandoned the frustrating mission (…)” (p. 22).

11 Locals always had little sympathy for any stranger  1940 chronicle mentions “The first Jew in 15 yrs”  1942 chronicle entry “the Jew … had left our community Slovaks are well known for their hospitality But: in Svinia hospitality is reserved for one’s own kin  Scheffel & family was only briefly greeted, never invited, and never received any garden produce as gift … The people

12 The people – “blacks" “ It is hard to imagine a greater contrast to the meticulous, measured, and taciturn residents of “white” Svinia than the Roma who inhabit its less glamorous periphery. Unlike the stodgy village, the osada pulsates with life. As one approaches it along a narrow road that branches off from the main street, one runs into men and women pushing antiquated prams loaded with supplies purchased in the village. Loud, unkempt, and often only partially clad, these people smoke, scream, laugh, and argue with groups of children that accompany them. They are communicative with strangers, and be the time the visitor reaches the settlement, he or she is likely to be surrounded by a lively cluster of curious companions.” (p. 25)

13 Numbers: 661 (49%) ethnic Slovaks vs. 685 (51%) Roma (census of 2001): birth ration 38:8! Increasing xenophobia of villagers, due to explosive growth of Romani population  sink into a “siege mentality” Dominant view is that Roma are inherently unable to live up to basic standards of civilized behavior  “Negative culture” Some acknowledge that relationships were better during Communism System of “residence permits”: every resident must be registered in a municipality  access to municipal and national elections, health care etc. More facts about Svinia

14 David Scheffel (2005) “Svinia in black and white” Chapter Two: Inside the osada

15 According to oral accounts of local Roma there was ONE ancestral couple: Juraj & Hania Kaleja, who got married in the local church But: according to municipal records another Kaleja couple arrived simultaneously (Janos and Barbara) According to the records there was a lot of (im)migration in the first 10 years of Romani presence in Svinia – the reason remains unknown After WW1 2 Kids of the “original couple” set up an own colony near the original settlement  bifurcated community in 2 settlements:  “creek people” (traditionally oriented) vs. “hill people” (closer to “whites”) Contrast between the two settlements has endured The people and their environment (I)

16 Housing conditions: Explosive population increase  dependency on primitive huts as only housing option Over-crowded huts house several generations Adolescents stay with parents until they have their own first baby  ongoing construction of new huts & expansion of villages. 2 types of huts: made of bricks (of soil, straw & water) or of log and soil/straw/water-mixture. Huts lack hygienic facilities, illegal hook ups for electricity, rusty stove for heating & cooking Apartments also marked by low standard of living: often only consisting of single bed and stove The people and their environment (II)

17 General environment: Amount of litter strewn around the settlement Human excrement Discharged objects People do not seem to perceive the litter as a problem Only water supply for the entire settlement is one shallow spring and a couple of wells Careless & even destructive attitude observable in adults and children The people and their environment (III)

18 “The living environment that local Roma have created for themselves reflects a community that attaches little value to the construction and maintenance of good order as defined by the majority society” (p. 55).

19 Traditional dependency on the surrounding majority population for livelihood The “old gypsies were good gypsies”, they went around begging but didn’t steel. But nowadays … From manual work during socialism to 100% within 2 years after collapse of socialism in 1989 Income of the Roma of Svinia (almost) exclusively based on social assistance payments: - welfare, mother’s allowance (3y.), baby bonus (keeps rising with age of child) Crucial: Ability to navigate a maze of contradictory rules and not actual family conditions The Roma do not have children to make a living, but the financial benefits influence their decisions Making a living (I)

20 Feast-and-famine consumption pattern: Social assistance payments are distributed once a month Distribution date is usually the benchmark for financially demanding activities Large share of payments spent right away  grocery shopping  alcohol (local pub)  gambling machine “Feast” portion of monthly cycle is over after a couple of days Towards the end of the month the Roma “stay indoors, watch television or sleep excessively, and avoid company of others” Making a living (II)

21 Supplemental activities: Heavy manual work (young Roma have good reputation as workers) Help Gadje with disposal of old furniture, TV asf., and foods that Gadje don’t eat (intestines)  nothing for free, Gadje charge for all Collecting carcasses Roma buy deceased animals which otherwise would have to be burned  skin is sold  meat is distributed among kin Kids search trash bins daily Larger garbage dumps Few loan-sharks  local “Elite” Making a living (III)

22 How can the feast-and-famine consumption pattern be explained? How can the expensive consumption habits be explained? Discussion question:

23 Encapsulated community, yet has multiple links to the outside world. Certain knowledge about the world through: TV, radio, shopping, contacts with relatives, prison terms, talking to white neighbors & officials Cognitive isolation: - map reading skills absent - knowledge about Czech lands larger than about Slovakia (due to work visits in Socialist era) - No idea of distances and distanced countries like Canada (or even the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava) – distances measured in hours needed to reach the place by foot or bus Relations with the outside world (I)

24 Relations within Roma community: Contacts only with a dozen of the totally 250 similar settlements  dense web of kinship  informal (professional) partnerships (dog sellers, loan-sharks, violin makers, asf.) Almost NO contacts with all other settlements Deep mistrust regarding Roma from other places: “rape girls”, “eat dogs”, “kill babies with hare lip.  others are often degeše: dirty & untouchable Svinian’s in reverse regarded as ignorants, bumpkins Relations with the outside world (II)

25 “The patchwork of xenophobia, prejudice, stereotypes, and fears upholding the boundaries between neighbouring settlements rest on a bedrock of genuine idiosyncracies (= pecularities) that lend each community its individual flavour and identity” (p. 133) But: in spite of the (real or imagined) differences between the settlements the communities in the region are conceptualized as one people  Share similar language, history, habits

26 Relations with Gadje: The Gadje are conceptualised as a the (culturally) most distanced people. Behavioral differences are often seen as rooted in biology: Romani blood is “fiery, hot” while white blood is “cool and thin”  Gadje represent a separate category of people Gadje disliked because of their arrogance, hostility, aggressiveness, cruelty, shrewdness Still: Whites are the reference group, there is manifest admiration of the dominant culture Younger Roma more critical: experienced segregated school system and racist attacks Relations with the outside world (III)

27 How do you explain the ambiguity of the Romani relationship or attitude towards the Gadje? Summarize why the “world beyond the settlement tends to be feared” (p. 136) Discussion questions

28 Gitanos live throughout Spain, in urban & rural areas Same confusion and myths about their descent as everywhere else Speak the language of the majority: Spanish As (most) Roma everywhere else: elaborate on contrast between themselves and Non-Roma 2 main groups of Roma in Spain: Kalderash (known as Hungaros by Roma and as Cingaros by Gadze) came from Eastern Europe in 19th cent., are the „trues“ Gitanos because migrant and Romanes-speaking Gitanos, divided into several sub-units Intro: Roma in Spain (I)

29 Represent a minority of „local origin“, yet their Spanishness is questioned by other Spaniards Undisputed role in Spanish communal imagination as embodiment of all evil and wrong  physical difference (dark skin & black, greasy hair)  different („wrong“) customs, values, language & lifestyle But: outside of Spain the Gitanos symbolize Spanishness: Flamenco, the black-eyed Gitana  Spanishness = Gypsyness : irrationality, passion, mistery, honour Intro: Roma in Spain (II)

30 Fieldwork started in 1992 Jarana (pseudonym) in the Villaverde Alto district in Madrid, with large Gypsy population Housing estate built by local authorities in 1989 to fulfill the ‚special needs‘ of particularly marginalized‘ or ‚backward‘ Gitanos Gitanos came to Villaverde mostly in 1950s with massive Spanish rural-urban exodus (after WW II)  (became) settled in most marginal urban areas, Built a shanty town, often of cardboard, which was replaced in 1960s and again in late 1980s One of them is Jarana: 4 rows of terraced houses along 3 streets, clearly separated from the main body of Villaverde Alto  a Ghetto! P. Gay y Blasco’s fieldsite

31 Gay y Blasco, Paloma ‘We don’t know our descent’: How the Gitanos of Jarana manage the past short presentation by Kylie

32 Vengo A film by Tony Gatlif (2000)

33 Essay Topic No. 2 – Romani Culture & Organization Given what you have learned about Romanipen, How do the Roma manage to maintain seperateness from the gadze and preserve their culture? What makes it difficult for the Roma to get successfully (politically) organized?


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