The Time of the Gypsies

The Time of the Gypsies

The Time of the Gypsies

The Time of the Gypsies

Synopsis

Until 1989 it was official Communist policy in eastern Europe to absorb Gypsies into the "ruling" working class. But many Gypsies fought to maintain their separate identity. This book is about the refusal of one group of Gypsies-the Rom-to abandon their way of life & accept assimilation into the majority population. It is a story about the sources of cultural diversity in modern industrial society & about the fear & hatred that such social & cultural difference may give rise to. The core of the book, based on eighteen months of observation of daily life in a Gypsy settlement, describes the cultivation, celebration, & reinvention of cultural difference & diversity by a people deemed by their social superiors to be too stupid & uncivilized to have a "culture" at all.

Excerpt

Maurice Bloch

THIS IS A STUDY OF HOW some of the most marginal and exploited people that exist can imagine themselves to be princes of the world.

During the past two hundred years the Gypsies of Eastern Europe have faced near enslavement by land owners, the physical and moral on- slaught of the Nazi holocaust, the fundamental challenge to their central values from the Communist state, and the violent discrimination and dislocation caused by the return to capitalism. One would have thought that the challenge would be too great, that they would have suffered cultural annihilation.

In fact this has not been the case. The documentation and analysis of this success, partial though it is, is the subject matter of this important and original study.

The evocation of feasting Hungarian Gypsy men, a strong and confident group of "brothers" bound forever, in their imagination, in a world outside history and nation-states, forms the hub of this book. It bears witness to the ability of people to construct a representation of coherence through art and symbols. This representation is fragile and temporary. Nevertheless its joyful acting-out creates the lasting identity--as Gypsies--of those who evoke it.

This is what Durkheim meant when he saw ritual as a means by which people collectively create the moral order of society at the very moment when they believe most strongly that it originates from a transcendental beyond. What Durkheim forgot, however, and what this book never forgets, is that the experience of being outside history and beyond the exercise of earthly power is only an illusion.

This consciousness of the illusory nature of representation exists at two levels: analytic and phenomenological. Analytic because it is obvious that these fleeting images of autonomy and power can only be created with the raw materials that history at any given moment provides; they are mere interludes in the constant human struggle with the world as it is, and as it changes. Phenomenological because these festive and exultant . . .

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