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The Romani Gypsies
by Yaron Matras
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (1)
Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067436838X, Hardcover)
“Gypsies” have lived among Europeans since the Middle Ages. Yet Roms still seem exotic to Westerners, who often rely on fictional depictions for what they know, or think they know, about this much-misunderstood people. The Romani Gypsies challenges stereotypes that have long been the unwelcome travel companions of this community in Europe and the New World. Yaron Matras offers a perspective-changing account of who the Roms are, how they live today, and how they have survived over centuries.
Descendants of Indian migrants, Roms began moving into western Europe in the 1300s, refugees of a collapsing Byzantine Empire. By the 1500s they had spread throughout Europe, working as itinerant smiths and toolmakers, healers and entertainers, and would soon reach the Americas. Often described as Egyptian—hence the name Gypsies—they were ostracized as beggars, vilified as criminals, respected as artisans, and idealized as free spirits. They have been both enslaved and protected, forced to settle down and forcibly expelled, in a pattern of manipulation and persecution that persists in our own time.
Matras draws on decades of first-hand research into Romani life to explain the organization of Romani society, its shared language, history, and traditions, as well as differences among widely dispersed Romani groups. He also details the present-day dilemmas surrounding the struggle of Roms for political recognition in European countries which are, by turns, either ambivalent or openly hostile.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:10 -0400)
Their own origins myths put them at the scene of the Crucifixion, deprived of a home of their own, doomed to a life of wandering, and granted by God the right to steal from other people in order to survive. In the Middle Ages, it was believed they had come out of Egypt. And yet their language shares a number of words with Greek, and has its roots in India. As one of the last remaining societies in the Western hemisphere with a strictly oral culture, the Romani people have no written record of their history that can be consulted. This book gives us the first comprehensive account of their culture, language and history. It is a story of the echoes of a rich past left in language and customs, and of how the changing fortunes of Europe throughout the centuries have been imprinted on Romani culture. The Romani people are a nation like few others: without territory, national sovereignty or formal institutions, and with no tradition of agriculture or ownership of land. As the wider global society that surrounds them struggles to define itself, what will become of the Roms? Unlike other groups who have won a measure of inclusion in recent decades, they have struggled to have their voice heard. If they are to have a future, it is time we brought our thinking about them out of the dark ages and into the modern world.
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