Institutional Non-Marriage in the
Finnish Roma Community and Its
Relationship to Rom Traditional Law
I studied the Finnish Roma society as a participant observer in 1976–78; the total time spent in the field was about eighteen months. Since that time I have moved to other things, but have maintained contact with my closest informants and friends and also have periodically returned to this topic with updated articles.1 The participation was truly anthropological in that I lived, worked, and travelled with them as far as an outsider can do.
The Finnish Roma differ markedly from the Roma in other parts of the world because they do not really use the Romani language as a means of everyday communication. The language which they use, although related to Romani, is no longer understood by any other than the Finnish Roma. It is rather restricted in terms of its vocabulary and range of topics. Culturally, at least as far as can be assessed from my reading, the Finnish Roma, mainly because of their isolation from the rest of Europe'S Roma for four centuries and also because of their extremely marginalized position in Finnish society, have preserved some of the general customs of the Roma in a “pure, ” archaic form. One such area is the general system of hygiene, the system of ritual observances connected to cleanliness2 and pollution. I shall refer to some of those kinds of customs in this essay, insofar as these are related to the in-____________________