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Factsheets on Roma Culture: General Introduction
Romani-Project Graz / Dieter W. Halwachs
In order to prevent unnecessary discussions and misunderstandings, we would like to mention that the term “culture” is henceforth always to be understood in the sense of the UNESCO definition:
Culture is a set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or a social group, and it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.
Homogeneity among the Roma, Sinti, Calè and many other European population groups who are collectively referred to by the mostly pejorative term “gypsies” cannot be assumed, neither politically nor socially, let alone culturally. The introductory Factsheet 1.0 consequently concludes that “the reality of Roma culture is complex and multilayered”, a fact that pervades any serious description of Roma culture, not only in this context. Accordingly, the following presentation by no means meets the demands of a full description, but seeks to give an impression of plurality and heterogeneity of Roma culture. The ideal instrument for this is the open form of individual factsheets in open groups and lists which can be extended if necessary. The groups/lists started to date can be described as follows:
1. GENERAL DESCRIPTIONS
Summaries of Roma culture, such as Factsheets 1.0 and 1.1, the discussion of the socio-cultural situation of Roma in Europe’s major regions, such as 1.2 “A contemporary picture of Romani communities in Eastern Europe”, or the description of the socio-cultural situation of larger groups with a common, unifying characteristic, for instance in Factsheet 1.3 “Muslim Roma”.
2. SPECIFIC FEATURES
Descriptions of specific features of Roma communities which are not necessarily found in all groups, such as internal jurisdiction, kris romani, in Factsheet 2.1. A general Factsheet 2.0 on this topic is at present still a desideratum and most likely still requires some research effort to fulfill a meaningful implementation.
3. ROMA GROUPS
This area covers descriptions of the socio-cultural situation of individual Roma groups. The general question regarding group-forming factors and an overview of the various Roma groups their names, self-appellations, self-image, etc. is reserved for a future Factsheet 3.0. The sequence and selection of the various groups represented are random and arbitrary and hence have no underlying logical plan.
These three areas can be extended and supplemented with additional areas within each frame.
In accordance with the plurality and heterogeneity of the issue, there have so far been no comprehensive descriptions of the culture of the Roma, Sinti, Calè and all other European population groups who are collectively referred to by the mostly pejorative term “gypsies”. Titles which include “Roma culture” are for the most part limited to a few aspects or characteristics of the ethnic culture of local and regional groups. In addition to anthologies, it is especially articles in established journals which deal with various aspects of the topic, including:
Etudes Tsiganes (in French)
Romani Studies / Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society (in English)
Romano Džaniben (in Czech with English summaries)
We are indebted to all the authors who contributed actively to the factsheets and the passive contributors who are cited as sources. We are grateful that we could rely on the expertise and support of Mozes F. Heinschink, who i.a. made the Romani Project at the University of Graz possible – and as a consequence also the factsheets – and who has been and still is of great help in all activities related to the topic.
THE CULTURE FACTSHEETS‘ TEAM
editing: Romani Project Graz | translation: Ulla & Henry Briscoe | layout and design: Marcus Wiesner | coordination: Romani Project at the University of Graz in close cooperation with the Council of Europe project „Education of Roma children in Europe“