Agata's story: singular lives and the reach of the ‘Gitano law’

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25 Citations (Scopus)


Ethnographic representations of Gypsies/Roma have traditionally emphasized the role of the person as exemplar and performer of Gypsy/Roma distinctiveness. They have also depicted Gypsy/Roma life as driven towards cultural closure and towards the eschewing of moral ambiguity. Here I explore these ideas via the story of a Agata, a Gitano woman from Madrid. My analysis focuses on the intersection between Gitano ideals of female behaviour as enshrined in the ‘Gitano law’ (a highly reified set of understandings regarding morality and custom), on the one hand, and the choices and personalities of Agata and some of her relatives, on the other. I show how strongly present the ‘Gitano law’ is in the lives of these men and women, but also how they engage it in ways that are neither monolithic nor predictable. The ensuing tension has effects that, albeit not uniform, reach deeply into the tissue of people's lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-461
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number3
Early online date2 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


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