Academic journal article Romani Studies

Behemoth: A Journal on Civilisation

Academic journal article Romani Studies

Behemoth: A Journal on Civilisation

Article excerpt

Behemoth: A Journal on Civilisation. 2011, Vol. 4, Nr. 1. Para-Ordnungen Para-Orders, Bernhard Streck (ed.). Walter de Gruyter, issn 1886-2447, doi io.i5i5/behemoth.2oii.ooi.

Reviewed by Elisabeth Tauber

Behemoth: A Journal of Civilisations has published contributions to a lecture series at the University of Leipzig. The counterpart of the famous monster of state Leviathan (Thomas Hobbes), Behemoth represents chaos that is selfpreserving even when the rational structure of the state collapses (Streck, p. 110). Bernhard Streck, Professor of anthropology in Leipzig, hosted the lecture series and wrote the introduction to the volume (pp. 1-6) as well as its conclusion (pp. 106-23). He explores these mythical figures in his concluding article, drawing parallels between Behemoth and the Trickster God (discussed by Leonardo Piasere in his contribution). The metaphorical and mythical references point to a relationship that has been discussed at length by scholars in anthropology: the relationship between states and their minorities, between bourgeois societies and Gypsies, between 'mother and daughter, or parents/ mother and illegitimate child, mother and rebellious or defiant and stubborn child' (Streck, p. 106 if). Streck argues that 'child or daughter cultures' replicate elements from the 'mother culture' and yet they re-shape these elements, giving rise to what he compares to 'illegitimate children-children cultures' that are disowned by the 'mother culture'. In the metaphor, Gypsy cultures are the illegitimate children and bourgeois societies are the mother cultures that refuse to accept and recognise those who do not respect the norms and rules established by the majority. A mother culture has always been and continues to be interpreted, redefined, abandoned, reintroduced and so on by illegitimate children. Streck's metaphorical analysis refers to overrun communities' which in times of globalisation and cultural homogenisation are best represented by Gypsies, since, as the author states, they act within free spaces and in-between niches (p. 113). Streck embarks on a convincing exploration of European humanist thought, although one might take a somewhat sceptical political position in regard to his mother-daughter metaphor.

The collection of papers in Behemoth brings together texts by six anthropologists working in very different contexts with Roma, Manouche, Romani people, Gitanos or Gypsies (as the various authors choose to refer to 'their' groups) in Europe. The collection represents an epistemological review as well as new reflections on possibilities of doing anthropology in general and of doing anthropology with Gypsies in Europe in particular. The special issue follows collections such as Refisch (1975), Rao (1987) and Piasere (1995) in placing on the agenda a new critical self- awareness and scientific reflection concerning the role, involvement and personality of researchers and the sheer construction of scholarly paradigms.

The lecture series at the University of Leipzig was called Riskante Ordnungen (Orders that carry risks'). It addressed the question of how to conceptualise para-orders' (Para-Ordnungen) which for historical reasons are seen as interconnected with the orders (Ordnungen) of majority societies (Streck, p. 2). In his introduction, Streck defines his colleagues and himself as experts in modern parallel societies' (p. 2), describing the contributors as Tsiganologen (p. 3) ('Gypsiologists' in the terminology used by some Anglophone writers) and conceptualising Tsiganologie as a rather exceptional combination of sociology and anthropology (p. 2). Reading through the different contributions to the volume, it seems that Streck's understanding of the anthropological profession in the field of Romani Studies is not equally shared by all his colleagues. Paloma Gay y Blasco (personal communication, Budapest CEU Summer School, 2009), for example, emphasises that anthropologists working with Romani people should regard themselves as anthropologists, members of an anthropological scientific community, with a 'regional focus', in this case on the Romani people. …

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