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Accepted Paper:

Tokmeala, or marriage arrangements among Romanian Cortorari Gypsies: haggling over dowries and connecting to the dead  
Catalina Tesar (New Europe College)

Paper short abstract:

Cortorari (grand)parents whimsically arrange and dissolve their (grand)children’s marriages. The ritual of tokmeala communicates the conclusion of a marriage arrangement: it stages the haggling over the cash dowry, and dramatizes the creation of marital bonds among the living, by recourse to the dead.

Paper long abstract:

Marriages are of greatest concern to the Romanian Cortorari Gypsies. They pivot around the negotiation and rearrangement of kinship ties concomitantly with the flow of money in the form of cash dowry, and the circulation of ceremonial wealth (averea) in the form of some material items, chalices (taxtaja). Chalices are inherited along male lines from one's forebears. In matrimonial exchanges, entitlements to chalices are redistributed among the groom's and bride's sides. Living a meaningful life means here arranging the marriage of one's children and living through seeing one's children bringing forth children and arranging the latter's marriage. Marriages are processual; they start with the removal of the bride from her parents' house and her relocation into her spouse's parents' house, and they are made to endure through cohabitation and production of children.

Normally taking the form of exchange of daughters, marriages are arranged and dissolved whimsically by parents and grandparents for their (grand) children from early age, sometimes since the latter are in their foetus stage. A close look at the cultural elaboration of marriage arrangements through the ritual of tokmeala (haggling over, bargaining), which stages the negotiations of the cash dowry in relation to the value of the groom's chalice, proves the idiom of reciprocity to be defective in explaining the meanings marital practices take among Cortorari. I argue that tokmeala-s are emotional dramatizations of Cortorari notions of belonging which hinge on continuously creating marital bonds among the living, and connectedness with the dead (as previous possessors of chalices).

Panel P018
Rethinking marriage: exchange and emotion in comparative perspective
  Session 1