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Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Facets of a Harmony

The Roma and Their Locatedness in Eastern Slovakia

Translated by Phil Jones

Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Facets of a Harmony

The Roma and Their Locatedness in Eastern Slovakia

Translated by Phil Jones
A crucial contribution to Romani studies focuses on a single Slovak village to explore universal issues of belonging.
In this important contribution to contemporary Romani studies, Jan Ort focuses his anthropological research on a village in eastern Slovakia reputed for the ostensibly seamless coexistence of its ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous inhabitants. Ort offers an ethnographic critique of this idyllic view, showing how historical shifts, as well as the naturalization of inequality and hierarchies, have led to the present situation between the village’s Roma inhabitants and other ethnic populations. However, he also shows examples and methods of subversion and resistance to the village’s current power dynamics. Based primarily on participant observation within Roma families, Ort’s long-term research results in a fascinating book replete with ethnographic descriptions that allow readers to understand local experiences, contexts, and divisions. These insights about the village lead to the key question of the book: Who actually is a local?

222 pages | 5 3/4 x 8

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations


“A detailed ethnographic study of ethnic coexistence on the border of eastern Slovakia, in an area undergoing demographic shifts. It highlights the dynamics and complexity of Roma-non-Roma relations and how structural racism constantly shifts and is concretely undermined, leading to a state of permanent ambiguity.”

Martin Fotta, Goethe University Frankfurt

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 6
Introduction: A village of Harmonious Coexistence 9
Place 10
Methodology 13
Romani Studies and Anthropology among Roma in Slovakia 13
Positionality 15
Methodology 18
Writing of the Roma 20
Being Local Roma 25
Silencing Gypsyness 25
Locals but Not Indigenous 28
Facets of a Harmony 35
Chapter One: “Our Roma” and “our Gadže” 37
The Roma in Slovakia 38
Together but Divided 41
Asymmetrical Relations 43
A Shared Understanding of Gypsyness 46
The Language of Gypsyness 47
Silencing Gypsyness 49
“Our Roma” 51
“Our Gadže” 52
Still Just a Gypsy 54
Experience of the Subordinate Position 55
Virtuous Roma and Amoral Gadže 56
Balancing the Gadžo Way of Life 58
The narrative of Social Mobility 60
The Narrative of Resistance 61
Conclusion 63
Chapter Two: Housing and the Politics of Space 66
The Territorialisation of the Roma in Slovakia 68
The Asymmetry of Post-War Construction 70
Politics of the Gypsy Tettlement 71
Actors of Territorialisation 74
Maintaining the Settlement’s Size 78
Council Flats for the Roma 80
Continuity of Territorial Stigmatisation 81
Covert Discrimination 83
Territorialisation: the Gadže’s Perspective 85
Placing Gypsyness 86
“Jolanian Roma”: Local, but Stuck in a Place 88
Amongst the Gadže: Confirming Gypsyness 90
Creating a Safe Space 92
The Settlement: Discontinuity of Material Conditions 93
Beyond Territorial Stigmatisation 95
Conclusion 97
Chapter Three: Language of the “Rusyn Roma” 101
The Romani Language in Slovakia 102
Language Acquisition in Jolany 106
Slovak 108
Rusyn 110
Rusyn in the Local Authorities 111
“So the Gadže Don’t Say...” 112
The Mayoress and Kalenák 113
New Domains of Romani? 115
Language as a Tool of Othering 117
Language and Inter-Roma Relations 119
Subverting Linguistic Dominance 120
Romani: The Roma’s Shared Cultural Code 122
Romani amongst the Gadže 124
“Original” Romani 125
Romani as a Cryptic Code 127
Conclusion 129
Chapter Four: Gypsy Economy in Jolany 133
The Roma and Work in Slovakia 134
Historical Overview of Economic Strategies in Jolany 136
“Gypsy Work” 138
Non-Romani Actors of the Gypsy Economy 140
“Gypsy Work” and Inter-Roma Relations 142
Being a Trustworthy Worker 144
Shifting the Logic of Adaptation 145
Gypsy Economy in Jolany 147
Visibility of the Gypsy Economy 149
Migration 151
Roma as “(Semi)nomadic Gypsies”? 152
Contesting Gypsyness through Migration 154
Escaping Everyday Racism 156
Jolany as a Safe Space 157
Conclusion 159
Conclusion: The Roma as Locals 163
Harmony as Narrative and Social Practice 165
“So that the Gadže don’t Say...” 167
Place 170
Gender 173
Roma and Kinship 175
Epilogue: Is old Jolany Slowly Disappearing? 178
Bibliography 182

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