Academic journal article Romani Studies

La Tradition De L'intégration. Une Ethnologie Des Roms Gabori Dans Les Années 2000/[the Tradition of Integration: An Ethnography of Gabori Roma in the 2000s]

Academic journal article Romani Studies

La Tradition De L'intégration. Une Ethnologie Des Roms Gabori Dans Les Années 2000/[the Tradition of Integration: An Ethnography of Gabori Roma in the 2000s]

Article excerpt

La tradition de l'intégration. Une ethnologie des Roms Gabori dans les années 2000 [The tradition of integration: An ethnography of Gabori Roma in the 2000s]. Martin Olivera. 2012. Paris: Éditions Pétra. 503 pp., euro32. ISBN 978-284743-050-9

Reviewed by Catalina Tesar

Olivera's ethnography advances one more answer to the question that has been pre-occupying the anthropological study of Gypsies since its advent in the mid 1970s, namely, how can one explain the resilience of Romani cultural configurations in the midst of the gaze who push strongly for their assimilation (Gay y Blasco 2011: 445; Stewart 2013: 418)? The proposed solution might appear paradoxical: It is through their historical and social integration into the world of non-Gypsies that the Roma manage to maintain their sociocosmological configuration. The book under review is a splendid demonstration of this seemingly self-contradictory explanation that the vital principle of the Roma persistence is located at the heart of their shared social history of cohabitation with the gaze. Surprisingly enough, the endurance of the Gypsy way of life is not seen as a counter-response or resistance to the mainstream values (cf. Stewart 1997); quite to the contrary, it is attributed to its fully fledged immersion into the local context and its embracement of local cultural idioms. However, Olivera warns the reader from the beginning that it would be misleading and reductionist to see the universe of romanes as a mere product of the intimate relationship between Gypsies and gaze, a relationship on which the reproduction of Gypsy identity depends nonetheless. Romanes is the manifestation of an internal principle, a force and a substance at the same time, the baxt (which is shown to be more than luck, blessing): "they don't seem to rely on gaze to make them visible (for this, the baxt is enough), but to help them persist in the world" (p. 444, my translation, italics in the original).

The persuasive force of this fresh and daring argument resides in the wealth of detailed evidence on which it is built. The book is not - its author makes a point to remind the reader of this repeatedly, and the title suggests it - about a-historical Gypsies, but about concrete and real Romani population who exist in a definite space and time: the Gabori (speakers of Romany, Hungarian and Romanian languages) from Transylvania, among whom Olivera carried out extensive fieldwork between 1997 and 2007, comprising some thirty months. Specialists in Romani studies may be acquainted with the Gabori population from the writings of Berta (2007; 2009; 2010; 2013), one of his papers having been published in this journal (2007). However, Olivera's book shatters previ- ous representations of Gabori through its professed choices of depicting native conceptions of being in the world. Olivera does away with analytical notions such as "community", "society", "ethnicity", "patrigroups" in which Berta couched his depiction of Gabori and instead gives way to the Gabori's own perspective on themselves. The result is a gradual undertaking in which the Gabori cosmology is fashioned and laid bare before the reader by means of people's everyday gestures, practices and words. The image we get of the Gabori, rather than being fashioned as an objective entity, constructs itself before our eyes as the anthropologist himself gathers knowledge about this people.

The Gabori are Gypsies who are proud to be Gypsies, they have the air and posture of aristocracy, and their vanity shows in the way they walk (at ease), dress, speak, and behave. Men with black velour hats, loose trousers and impressive moustaches, and women with ankle-length pleated skirts and scarves covering their heads, make themselves ostentatiously visible or, in Olivera's native language, "se donne à voir ' (p. 19). However, none of their visible cultural traits contribute to the articulation of Gabori inner sociality, the universe of romanes, which reveals itself to the trained eye of the anthropologist alone while remaining invisible to the outsiders. …

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