Accepted Paper:

Accumulation of wealth, economy of prestige and politics of kinship in a "traditional" Roma community in postsocialist Romania  


Catalina Tesar (University of Bucharest)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will explore the internal power relations together with conflicts and tensions in a so-called “traditional” Romanian Roma group, by conflating economic practices, politics of kinship and economy of prestige with internalization of the public hegemonic discourse.

Paper long abstract:

The emergence, in the aftermath of the fall of the communism in Romania, of the new economically successful Roma was tempted to be explained by the indigenous academic discourse in terms of culture/ethnicity (compliance with Gypsiness asserted through "brotherhood ties"). Drawing on the critics of the literature on resistance as well as on ethnographic data gathered in a so-called "traditional" Roma group living in central Romania, the main concern of this paper is to dismiss the idea of conceiving of Roma as homogenous subordinate groups and to move the analysis towards the loci of internal power relations. The practice of inheritance of the prestige item (o taxtaj) together with new patterns of conspicuous consumption (such as housing) and kinship strategies (cash dowry established accordingly to the monetary value of the future groom's prestige item) account for fissions and tensions inside the Cortorari (literarily Tent Dwellers) group. Ongoing internal conflicts together with social practices informed by the interaction with the dominant other as well as internalization of the public discourse demystify the idea of a monolithic, static and independent culture of the Gypsies that was put forewords by the classical literature.

Panel W116
Beyond identity: new directions in the anthropology of Roma/Gypsy groups