Academic journal article Romani Studies

Svinia in Black and White: Slovak Roma and Their Neighbors

Academic journal article Romani Studies

Svinia in Black and White: Slovak Roma and Their Neighbors

Article excerpt

Svinia in black and white: Slovak Roma and their neighbors. David Z. Scheffel. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press. 2005. 244 pp. isbn 1-55111-607-3.

The 1893 census in Hungarian Slovakia described the region's Roma as a diverse community with high sedentarization rates and extensive skills as metal workers, musicians, bricklayers, and common laborers. A century later, David Z. Scheffel, who spent ten years as an activist anthropologist among the Roma in Svinia, Slovakia, saw them as a marginalized group incapable of functioning in the complex world of the new, post-communist Slovakian state. Scheffel blames communism and its destruction of the traditional relationships between Svinia's 'blacks [Roma]' and 'whites' on this decline. In pre-communist Slovakia, Scheffel, a professor of Anthropology at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, argues that a complex though workable relationship of dependence between the village's gadje and Roma kept relations between the separate but unequal communities reasonably healthy. The communist era's 'socialist humanism' destroyed this traditional relationship in part because of unsuccessful efforts by the Roma to reach across the uneven divide between the two communities to grasp some hint of equality. Svinia's 'whites' were steadfast in their efforts to halt even modest Roma efforts for greater autonomy and equality. The result was further isolation and impoverishment of the Roma while the 'whites' saw their standard of living rise appreciably.

But Scheffel refuses to blame the plight of the Roma solely on the gadje community in Svinia. He does not accept the Roma's rationale that all of their problems center around gadje racism. …

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