Synopses & Reviews
For many of us, one of the most important ways of coping with the death of a close relative is talking about them, telling all who will listen what they meant to us. Yet the Gypsies of central France, the Manuand#353;, not only do not speak of their dead, they burn or discard the deceased's belongings, refrain from eating the dead person's favorite foods, and avoid camping in the place where they died.
In Gypsy World, Patrick Williams argues that these customs are at the center of how Manuand#353; see the world and their place in it. The Manuand#353; inhabit a world created by the "Gadzos" (non-Gypsies), who frequently limit or even prohibit Manuand#353; movements within it. To claim this world for themselves, the Manuand#353; employ a principle of cosmological subtraction: just as the dead seem to be absent from Manuand#353; society, argues Williams, so too do the Manuand#353; absent themselves from Gadzo societyand#8212;and in so doing they assert and preserve their own separate culture and identity.
and#8220;His immensely detailed study of the observances and practices by the Manuand#353; of their dead throws light on the wider questions of cultural creation and persistence. Thus the study moves beyond any exotic record of difference and any anecdotal accumulation of hitherto hidden practices and beliefs. . . . His detailed ethnography is awesome, with multiple examples from a variety of individuals over time. . . . This study confronts the reader with the subtle creation of silent cultural practices and the quiet appropriation of limited territory by one of many Gypsy/Roma groups throughout the West. They redefine the dominant cultures which they cannot overthrow, but in which they survive with some creative autonomy.and#8221;
and#8220;Williamsand#8217;s rigorous approach is at once effective and poetic. [Gypsy World
] marries theory with experience and is no doubt one of the strongest books in print today on the Gypsies.and#8221;
and#8220;Williams shows that a Gadzo like himself who has spent a lifetime with the Manuand#353; . . . can develop a profound understanding for their world and transmit that understanding in a beautifully written text. This book is a must for anyone interested in culturally connected time and space, memory, performance of culture, Gypsy/Roma and Manuand#353; cultures, anthropology, philosophy, silence, and the beauty of life.and#8221;
About the Author
is the director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. His numerous publications on Gypsy groups include Mariage Tsigane; Tsiganes: Identitandeacute;, andeacute;volution; Les Tsiganes de Hongrie et leurs musiques
; and Django
Catherine Tihanyi, an anthropologist and translator, is a research associate in the Department of Anthropology at Western Washington University.
Table of Contents
List of Photographs
2 Mare Mule: The Dead among the Living
3 Civilizing the World
4 The Basket Makers Have Become Scrap-Iron Dealers