Accepted paper:

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


Catalina Tesar (University of Bucharest)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

panel P089
Roma/Gypsy resilience beyond marginality?