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Accepted paper:

Traces of the past, visions of the future: the historical shaping of Roma mobilisation and the importance of 'context'.


Raluca Bianca Roman (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will analyse the importance of 'context' by looking at the historical traces concerning early Roma mobilisation in Europe, and offering new frameworks through which one can engage with concepts such as 'nationalism,'activism' and'temporality', beyond their oft-used presentist framework.

Paper long abstract:

The key argument of this paper is that looking at historical traces concerning early Roma activists' 'visions of the future' creates a new pathway through which one can understand the concepts of Roma 'nationalism', 'activism' and 'temporality', beyond their oft-used presentist framework. Moreover, such historical traces provide important sources for anthropologists' understanding of the experience of present-day fieldwork while, at the same time, their absences and silences are revelatory in the (hi)stories it left behind.

Based on long-term fieldwork among Roma in Finland and Romania, and combined with subsequent archival research on the Roma mobilisation in the two countries, this paper explores the ways in which historical traces are necessary pathways in understanding the process of shaping particular visions of the past, present and future of marginalised communities, from within. In particular, by analysing archival material concerning the discourse of early 20th-century Roma activism in the two countries, alongside its present-day manifestations, highlights the necessity to re-think historical traces as both constructive and constructed spaces, embedded within the larger framework of the national, political and social history that produced them. As such, far from being artefacts or repositories of ultimate truths, historical traces that left behind (letters, periodicals, manifestos) are not only shaped by their own context but enable different forms of imagining the 'future'. Finally, this paper will also highlight the necessity for opening up anthropological practice to an inter-disciplinary realm, wherein the lessons of archival research are crucial in the shaping of anthropological knowledge in the making.

panel P142
Knowing Historical Traces, Eliciting Possible Futures