Accepted paper:

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

Author:

Stefania Toma (Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities)

Paper 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.

Paper 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).

panel P089
Roma/Gypsy resilience beyond marginality?