Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture

By Walter O. Weyrauch | Go to book overview

FIVE
Gypsy Law and Jewish Law
Calum Carmichael

The essay on Gypsy law by Walter Weyrauch and Maureen Bell is a pioneering attempt to describe the role of law among the Roma (Gypsies).1 Because there is no written law, Weyrauch and Bell are not in a position to give an account of the development of Romani law over its approximately one-thousand-year history. This lack is in striking contrast to Jewish law. Although there are eras when we know little or nothing about Jewish law, we can nonetheless give an account of its development over a very long period of time.


JEWISH LAW

Jewish law has existed for about three thousand years and is observed in some parts of the world today. It is virtually impossible to say much about its historical beginnings. There is a sense in which many rules (prohibiting murder, stealing, e.g.) in every culture are without origin. The laws of the Bible share features with legal material familiar from other cultures in the ancient Near East. The question of how to evaluate the overlap is much debated and no convincing link has emerged. Hammurabi'S code existed well into the first millennium. It constituted an academic body of law and the biblical lawgivers may have shared its intellectual stance by setting out theoretical constructions focused on topics of their own concern (the release of debts every seven years, returning land to its original possessors every forty-nine years).2

____________________
1
Weyrauch & Bell, “Autonomous Lawmaking: The Case of the 'Gypsies', ” chap. 2 in this volume
2
All groups tend to paint ideal pictures of themselves. Social anthropologists report that native informants, describing what goes on in their societies, set out normative ideals as if they are describing how things actually are. See Bronislaus Malinowski, The Sexual Life of Savages in North Western Melanesia 503–72 (1953). In her account of Gypsy society, Patti J. Jeatran states that “the behaviors described [in her paper] may be largely ideal and should in no way be construed as representative of the reality of daily life for any single individual, much less an entire group of people. ” See “Disputing and Social Control Among American Gypsies, ” (Nov. 14, 1990, unpublished paper, University of Illinois, Department of Criminal Justice), 3. Similar considerations should always be kept in mind when looking at biblical and later Jewish legal material.

-117-

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Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Note on Terminology vii
  • Foreword - Angela P. Harris ix
  • One - Walter O. Weyrauch 1
  • Two - Walter O. Weyrauch and Maureen Anne Bell 11
  • Three - Thomas Acton, Susan Caffrey, and Gary Mundy 88
  • Four - Susan Caffrey and Gary Mundy 101
  • Five - Calum Carmichael 117
  • Six - Angus Fraser 137
  • Seven - Martti Grönfors 149
  • Eight - Ian Hancock 170
  • Nine - Ronald Lee 188
  • Ten - Anne Sutherland 231
  • Eleven - Walter O. Weyrauch 243
  • Contributors 277
  • Index 279
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