Accepted paper:

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


Raluca Bianca Roman (University of St Andrews)

Paper 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

Paper 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'.

panel P089
Roma/Gypsy resilience beyond marginality?