'We don't know our descent': How the Gitanos of Jarana Manage the Past

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Although Gypsies have often been described as people 'oriented towards the present', the question of how their approach to the past might illuminate their particular mode of being in the world has been left largely untheorized. In fact, understanding how Gypsies manage the past is essential to understanding the processes through which they survive as a group in the midst of non-Gypsy society. In this article I analyse how the Gitanos of Jarana (Madrid) work upon the past so as to remove certain past events and periods from the communal gaze and to ensure that others receive only limited elaboration. I also explore the links between these Gitanos' downplaying of the past in their accounts of themselves and their particular ways of organizing social relations. Therefore, my focus lies on the relationships between the past and the imagined community; and between the latter and its structural supports.

For the fact is that most nonintellectual Rom do not seem to care where their ancestors came from. In all the time I have spent in Harangos, I have never once heard a spontaneous conversation about the geographical or historical roots of their own people. And even when once the Rom engaged the topic in response to my questioning, this was clearly to burnout me and did not reflect any interest of their own.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-647
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001




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