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CALO IDENTITY: HISTORY, SELF-PERCEPTION AND SELF-EXPRESSION AS

PORTRAYED IN TONY GATLIFS FILM, VENGO

A Thesis

Presented to the

Graduate Faculty of the Department of Modern Languages

and the

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Faculty of the Graduate College

University of Nebraska
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In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree


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Master of Arts in Education of Spanish

University of Nebraska at Kearney

By

Erin Elizabeth Roark

November 2008
UMI Number: 1470654

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UMI 1470654
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THESIS ACCEPTANCE

Acceptance for the faculty of the Graduate College, University of Nebraska,


in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree (name of the degree),
University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Supervisory Committee

Name Department

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

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_____________________________________________________________
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_____________________________________________________________

______________________________
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Supervisory Committee Chair

______________________________
Date
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I would like to thank my thesis advisor, Dr. Herbert Craig, and the chair of the

Department of Modern Languages at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Dr. Sonja

Dams Kropp. I would also like to thank the members of my thesis committee, including

Dr. Anita Hart, Dr. Christa Jones, and Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, as well as Dr. Kathryn Benzel,

who provided me with support and advice. Also, a special thanks goes out to Cherie

DeFreece, secretary of the Department of Modern Languages, who was always happy to

lend her time and assistance.

This thesis is dedicated to my family and my friends who provided me with

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emotional support and babysitting. This project could not have been undertaken, let alone

completed, without them. This includes my mother, Camilla Roark, my father, Dr. James
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Roark, my husband, Abdullah Alhagagi, and my dear friend, Sue Schuyler. Thank you
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all!
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Abstract

This thesis will first investigate the construction of Gitano identity in literature

and film by non-Romanies and will then contrast mainstream Gypsy discourse with the

work of director Tony Gatlif.

Tony Gatlif, himself of Spanish Gitano descent, has long provided a voice for

Europes Romani (Gypsy) populations and continues this tradition with his film, Vengo.

Gatlif reflects the history and challenges the stereotyping of Romanies through an

exploration of their oral, musical, and kinesthetic systems of expression. The director

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questions the European custom of romanticizing Gitano life by confronting it directly. He

takes on the essentialized Gitano themes of revenge and bloodlust that have a
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longstanding tradition in the works of writers such as George Borrow, Prosper Mrime,
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Federico Garca Lorca and of directors like Carlos Saura. In contrast to these

conventional narratives, Vengo allows Spains Romani population to speak for itself,

communicating collective identity by means of the art forms to which they are most
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closely connected: flamenco music and dance. Gatlif creates complex characters whose

humanity and spirituality are capable of challenging dominant discourses.


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: George Borrows Orientalism. 6

Chapter 2: Romani History and Latcho Drom.. 32

Chapter 3: The Flamenco Legacy. 57

Chapter 4: Gatlifs Challenge.... 70

Chapter 5: The Gypsy and the Virgin... 112

Conclusion..... 124

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Notes.. 126

Works Cited... 128


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Cal Identity: History, Self-Perception and Self-Expression as Portrayed in Tony Gatlifs

Film, Vengo

Chapter 1: George Borrows Orientalism

Director Tony Gatlif, himself of Spanish Cal (Gitano) descent, has long

provided a voice for Europes Roma (Gypsy) populations and continues this tradition

with his 2000 film, Vengo. In this work, Gatlif reflects the history of flamenco and of the

Cal people who have been the chief purveyors of this art form in contemporary times. In

so doing, the director challenges long-held stereotypes of Spains Gitano population. The

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directors unfiltered lens captures Cal music and dance, which flows out of a collective

memory of injustice, an injustice that has affected the Romanies as well as the other
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persecuted groups that are associated with the genesis of flamenco. The director
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questions the Spanish custom of romanticizing Gitano life by confronting it directly.

Gatlif takes the stereotypical Gitano themes of revenge, passion, and bloodlust that have

a longstanding tradition in the works of writers such as Federico Garca Lorca and
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reclaims them by giving them a first-person perspective. Gatlif allows Spains Roma

population to speak for itself through its music and dance, which are not merely a stylized

form of entertainment, as in the films of Carlos Saura,1 but are part of daily Gitano life,

taking the viewer from the lewd environs of a nightclub brothel all the way to the heights

of a Sufi practitioners romance with God.

This thesis will first examine the essentialist nature of the conventional

Eurocentric Gypsy narrative, thus underscoring the significance of Gatlifs work within

a larger, centuries-old framework of distortion of Romani identity by the media of the


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dominant culture. The history of the Romanies of Europe, with more specific emphasis

placed on the Cals of Spain and the art of flamenco, will be explored within the context

of Tony Gatlifs films. The deconstruction of Gitano stereotypes that takes place in

Vengo will be compared with the more well-known depictions of Cals in literature and

film by the likes of Federico Garca Lorca and Carlos Saura. Finally, the very soul of

Vengo, its underlying spiritual content, will be investigated, as Gatlif uncovers the sacred

essence of a people who have been accused of lacking religion. In Vengo, the faith of the

Romanies grows out of and is reflected in the music that they create.

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Romanies have long been politically, socially, and economically marginalized as

Europes resident Other (Hancock; Kenrick, Dictionary; Trumpener); this constructed


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division between Romani populations and the rest of European society has led to an us
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versus them dichotomy and a resulting discourse of Romani exclusion from

participation in the mainstream society. This prohibition, along with a fierce sense of

Romani pride in the traditions that make their community culturally distinct, has led to a
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reclusion of Romani people that has worked to perpetuate the aura of mystery and to

heighten the sense of romance that has been attached to Romani identity by non-

Romanies.

It is important to begin by clarifying some of the nomenclature that has long been

associated with the Romani people; although the origins and consequences of this

terminology will later be further elaborated, it is necessary to have a working

understanding of these words from the start. The word Gypsy is considered highly

derogatory, not only because it has grown out of a misinterpretation of Romani origin but
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also because it is a designation invented by outsiders, who often apply it as a pejorative.

Gypsy is a misnomer; the Romanies of Europe have been mistakenly called Gypsies

throughout the centuries because they were believed to have been wandering penitents

from Egypt on religious pilgrimage in Europe (Gypsy comes from the word

Egyptian). By posing as pilgrims from Little Egypt, the Romanies were granted safe

passage through much of Europe, even possibly gaining a letter of support from Pope

Martin in 1423 (Kenrick, Dictionary 202). As new immigrants to the continent, the

Romanies were aided by this misrepresentation in achieving a tenuous survival and

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security, however fleetingly. Other spellings and words that have resulted from this

misunderstanding are Gipsy, Gitano, Sipsiwn, Ijito, Gjupci, Yiftos, and Gitan (Hancock,
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Romani People 1). Another term, Tsingani (also Cingano, Cikan, Zigeuner and ingene),
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came from Byzantine Greek (Atsingani) and signified the dont touch or hands off

people. Because Romanies were seen to keep a distance from everyone else, they were

given this nickname (Hancock, Romani People 1).


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The (mis)use of the word Gypsy has developed several other permutations and

consequent misunderstandings. The term Gypsy is often written without capitalizing

the g, thus implying that it is not an ethnic designation, but rather a life-style descriptor.

The word is used in this manner to name all class of wandering people or to imply a wild,

freewheeling way of life, neither of which is related to ethnicity. When presented merely

as a gypsy, the Romani individuals very existence and history are brought into

question. In his book, We are the Romani People, noted Romani scholar Ian Hancock

writes that the word Gypsy


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. . . is so often spelt with a minuscule (lower case) initial letter. This is

especially significant in English, which writes proper nouns with capital

initial letters, and writing Gypsy as gypsy has only reinforced the

common idea that we are a people defined by a behavior rather than by

ethnicity. (xxi)

Gypsy is also a word that takes on mythical connotations; gypsies are often portrayed

as being akin to elves, fairies, witches, trolls, and other magical, make-believe beings,

further working to undermine the fact that the Romanies comprise a socio-linguistically

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distinct group of people. These fallacies continue to marginalize a people whose struggle

to attain basic human rights is deeply compromised by the widespread view held by those
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outside of the community that gypsies are merely inventions of fiction.
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However, even when recognized as a real, historically and linguistically separate

class of people, the Romanies continue to be pursued by the relentless imaginings of the

dominant culture. Even as an existent population, Gypsies are dogged by stereotypes:


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they are carefree and colorful dancers and musicians who avoid work and read palms;

they are dangerous and mysterious knife-wielding bandits. To gyp someone is used in

the English language to express the act of swindling an innocent and gyp is taken

directly from the word Gypsy. These portrayals get at the heart of an even deeper

problem for the Romanies of Europe: an inability to escape how the Gypsies are

imagined within the European collective popular mind. Within this particular Gypsy

paradigm, the problem that is evident in what Katie Trumpener refers to as the cultural

construction of the Gypsies in the Western imagination (846) becomes paramount. In


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her article, The Time of the Gypsies: A People without History in Narratives of the

West, Trumpener goes on to explain the unique nature of the Romani dilemma:

In the depictions of the press and of mass culture, in literature written for

children and in school textbooks, Gypsies continue (long after political

pressure has forced out analogous generic characterizations of African

Americans, Jews, or women) to appear as stereotypical figures of magic

and menace; what is involved here is not only ignorance, a failure to

realize that the Gypsies are a real and sizable population living as a still-

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threatened minority in Europe and North America, but also a refusal to

give up a powerful set of cultural myths for their sake. (849)


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In contrast to the term Gypsy and all of the ambiguities that this name
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embodies, the word that this group of people uses to collectively describe themselves is

Romani. Romani (plural Romanies) is used as a singular noun, an adjective, and is also

the name of their language. In his book, Roma: The Punjabi Emigrants in Europe, Central
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and Middle Asia, the USSR and the Americas, W. R. Rishi gives one possible etymology

of the word Rom (from which the word Romani derives) as coming from the Sanskrit

root ram (ramate, rama):

Rama in Sanskrit has the following meaning . . . One who roams about[,]

. . . Dark-coloured[,] . . . Husband, which is the same as in the Romani

language[,] . . . [p]leasing, delighting, charming. (10-12)

Rishi explains that Rama was also the son of a great Hindu king and belonged to the

royal Kshatriya (warrior) class. This is significant because many contemporary scholars
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now believe that the Romanies of Europe are descendents of the Rajputs and/or Jats,

which are both warrior castes of India. In the Hindu tradition, Rama was himself a

wanderer, roaming in the forests for fourteen years while in exile. Rishi concludes that

the word Rama came to mean wanderer because the Jain sources held him to be the

wanderer in his previous and future lives (12).

As the tongue that is spoken in various dialects by past and present Romani

people, Romani has Indo-Aryan roots; the Romani language has allowed linguists to

determine that the true place of origin of the Romanies is Northern India and not Egypt.

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Linguists have also been able to use the Romani language to establish various routes that

the Romanies followed out of India, as well as to roughly calculate the amount of time
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spent in each region as the Romanies passed through Persia, Central Asia, the Middle
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East, Armenia, and Turkey on their way into Europe. Genetic proof is now available to

further support the linguistic evidence:

While nine centuries removal from India has diluted the Indian biological
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connection to the extent that for some Romani groups it may hardly be

represented today, Sareen (1976:42) concluded that overall, we still

remain closer, genetically, to Asians than to the Europeans around us

(Hancock, Romani People 70)

The term Romani is considered to be more dignified and respectful not only because it is

self-generated, but also because it is a more truthful reflection of ancestry. Romanies

refer to non-Romanies as gadze (singular gadzo); this expression is not a proper noun,
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nor is it an offensive word; it simply means non-Romani people (Hancock, Romani

People xxii).

As mentioned above, the word Gitano, like the word Gypsy, is also a

misnomer; when the Romani people entered Spain in the fifteenth century, they were

mistakenly thought to have come from Egypt (Gitano was derived from Egipciano). In

Spain, Romanies often refer to themselves as Cals (a Romani word meaning black;

singular: Cal; feminine: Cal) and to their language as Cal; for this reason, the term

Cal will be used to talk about the Romani populations of Spain except within

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quotations, or when discussing the various stereotypes that are associated with the word

Gitano (Kenrick, Dictionary 37). Also, the concept of race, when used to imply that
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collective differences are the result of pre-determined biological factors, has been proven
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to be unfounded; therefore, when used in this thesis, the word race will be employed as

a designator of a shared sociolinguistic and historic legacy rather than to imply some sort

of fundamental biological differences existent between human beings. Since the


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essentialized image of the Gypsy and the continuing historical consequence of

Western Gypsy fantasies for the actual shape of Romani lives in Europe (Trumpener

848) will be scrutinized in this thesis, it is important to draw a distinction from the

beginning between the gadzo myth and the Romani reality.

For the viewer to fully understand the impact of the films of Tony Gatlif, a Cal

filmmaker who interprets Romani themes, on the greater Romani community, his work

must first be placed within the larger context of European Gypsy scholarship and

Western media interpretations of Romani identity. The current wave of research on


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Romani origins began with the resurgence of European interest in philology in the

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and with researchers newly created quasi-scientific

modes of classifying languages, and thereby people, based on constructed paradigms of

superiority of Europeans and inferiority of everybody else. Edward Said describes these

newly energized scientific pursuits in detail, and many of the ideas contained in

Orientalism can just as easily be applied to the Romanies who were (and are) after all, the

Orientals of Europe. Said defines Orientalism as the subjective delineation of

boundaries between the Occident and the Orient by European pseudo-scholars and in

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turn by the rest of European society. In the case of the Romanies, these boundaries have

been not only physical in their denial of space (Romanies have never been made to feel
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welcome on European territory), but also psychological in scope; Romanies as Gypsies
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have been both mythologized and maligned. From the time that the first anti-Romani

laws were passed in Europe, laws which made it legal to enslave Romanies (first

recorded in Romania in 1385) and laws which challenged the Romanies very right to
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exist by ordering their expulsion (the first of such laws was introduced in Switzerland in

1471), their forced deportation (first introduced in Portugal in 1538), their forced

sterilization (first introduced in Czechoslovakia in 1972), and even their execution (first

introduced in Switzerland in 1510), the Romanies have been conceived of as being

separate from and unequal to other Europeans. It is irrelevant that Romanies have been

residents in continental Europe since at least as far back as 1290, when they arrived in

Greece from Byzantium; they have consistently been viewed and treated as unwelcome

intruders by other Europeans.


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Although the aforementioned laws (far from being a complete list) have obviously

been devastating to Romani identity, both the academic and fictional portrayals of

Romanies in Europe have been equally destructive and perhaps much more difficult to

alter, since there is no concrete harm or physical scarring which the Romanies can

identify. The hegemony that has been put into place by the dominant culture attacks the

basic identity of the Romani while simultaneously trapping the Romani individual within

its confines. Even though this essentialism damages the Romani collective psyche and

leads to further bias on the part of the gadze, it continues to flow unchecked through

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childrens stories, like Walt Disneys The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as well as other

media. Ian Hancock describes the dual nature of the discrimination against the Romani
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people, emphasizing the negative consequences of the psychological aspects of this
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discourse:

The manipulation by societies in power of the identities of subordinate

groups is achieved in many ways. One such way is through discriminatory


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legislation, such as that enacted against the Romani people in almost every

land where they live. Another is through media representation, both

factual and fictional. This last category, the portrayal of Gypsies in poetry,

film and novels, is the most effective in establishing such negative feelings

because they are absorbed by children at a time when they are most

susceptible to acquiring societys attitudes. (Duty and Beauty 182)

The Romanies of Europe, like other Orientals, face an assault on two fronts; they are

not only required to overcome an onslaught of harmful legislation, but they must also
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fight a tenacious psychological battle to take back their very identities from gadze

oppressors. The psychological component of the Romani struggle is directly related to the

depiction of Romanies within the pseudo-scholarship that is generated by those outside of

the Romani population, as well as to the fiction that such erudition engenders. This

spiritual domination must be examined in detail in order to understand the importance of

the films of Tony Gatlif, which have worked in direct opposition to the hegemonic

influence of the media of the dominant culture.

The Romani collective identity has long fallen victim to the whims of European

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fantasy and it is more than evident that in literature these resident others have been

dealt with based on assumptions of their inherent inferiority. Edward Said asserts that the
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Orientalist creates an Orient based on his own prejudices and fantasies and always
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conceives of this Orient as subordinate to the Occident. In European popular perception

the Romanies have been painted romantically as magical, seductive, free, and wild

children of nature, while simultaneously being reduced to negative stereotypes of


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thieves, beggars, charlatans, and kidnappers. Both sets of notions imply the difference,

and by extension the inadequacy, of the Romani outsider when compared to other,

real Europeans.

Just as the Orientalist is mainly concerned with the glorified and romanticized

past of the Oriental culture which he studies, and bemoans the state of backwardness into

which the Orientals of contemporary times have fallen, many Europeans romanticize

their perceptions of the Romanies of the past, wishing that the Romanies of today would

quit their urban, sedentary lifestyle and return to their nomadic ways of yesteryear. After
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the Industrial Revolution in Europe, Romani populations came to symbolize in literature

an earlier idyllic, rural way of life (Hancock, The Romani People 64). Hancock goes on

to explain that the created gypsy persona is the result of . . . a combination of the

responses to industrialization, colonialism and emerging nineteenth century ideas of

racial hierarchy (65). Gypsy scholars and other writers, especially those belonging to

the Romantic movement, have done much to glorify the image of this mysterious

Gypsy of bygone days, who traveled in caravans and told fortunes, while doing very

little to correctly reflect, much less improve, contemporary Romani reality, which has

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more often than not been one of poverty and social exclusion (Trumpener 869).

While the Orientalist disregards the reality of the Oriental and instead seeks to
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define the Orient by essentializing and exoticizing it (thereby rendering it more easily
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comprehensible and less threatening to the European mind), so too the Gypsy scholar

simplifies the Romani and reduces him to easily definable and recognizable

characteristics. These stereotypes are then further perpetuated in literature and film,
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creating a self-perpetuating cycle of essentialism, which the Romanies themselves are

unable to break out of as they have historically been utterly excluded from the dialogue

of their identity. The Gypsy scholar, like the Orientalist, sets up an us versus them

dichotomy, which tries to rationalize the dominant cultures social, psychological,

economic, and territorial authority. According to Said, the role of the scholar in the

systematic essentialization of a co-opted culture by a dominant power is a crucial one.

So far as the strictly scholarly work was concerned (and I find the idea of

strictly scholarly work as disinterested and abstract hard to understand:


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still, we can allow it intellectually), Orientalism did a great many things.

During its great age in the nineteenth century it produced scholars; it

increased the number of languages taught in the West . . . Yetand here

we must be very clearOrientalism overrode the Orient. As a system of

thought about the Orient, it always rose from the specifically human detail

to the general transhuman one . . . Orientalism assumed an unchanging

Orient, absolutely different (the reasons change from epoch to epoch)

from the West. And Orientalism, in its post-eighteenth-century form,

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could never revise itself. (96)

As with other Oriental populations, the Romani identity of today remains chained to a
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distant, romanticized past which, until relatively recently, was repeatedly validated by
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Gypsy scholars. Today, European writers and directors have tended to stick to this

Gypsy script, continuing the scholars work by creating characters that conform to their

audiences expectations: wandering Romanies who steal, read palms, seduce, and settle
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scores at knife-point. In the shared subconscious of the dominant culture, the Romani

remains a seductress, a savage, a traveler, and a thief; this is the predicament of the

modern Cal, who tries to wash the blood of the rival from his hands or who struggles to

free herself from the dogma of Carmen. The contemporary Romani must work to

negotiate a new place for himself or herself within present-day Europe. In seeking to

achieve this position, one that more authentically reflects the Romani reality, Romanies

must battle scholars and writers alike as the very identity of the Romani people is at

stake.
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To discover the basis for the current popular notions about Romanies, it is

necessary to return to the original source of much of the information: the early

scholarship related to the Romanies and their language. Romani Studies as it exists today

owes much to the grammars of the Romani language, which were inaccurate more often

than not, that were written by evangelists and scholars alike. Generally speaking, these

investigations were not undertaken to improve the lives of the Romanies or to open

channels of communication between the Romanies and the gadze; instead, Gypsy

scholars used Romani to demonstrate the inferiority of the language, and thereby of its

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speakers, or to underscore the Romanies pagan tendencies in order to justify the

saving of Romani souls. By unlocking the mysteries of a language that was long
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thought to be merely a thieves tongue rather than a properly evolved idiom, both
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religious and scholarly approaches sought to confirm already fossilized opinions about

the Romanies. Gypsy scholarship defined Romani identity according to its own

Eurocentric prejudices about the community, and therefore did little to lessen the divide
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between Romani and gadzo and much less to ameliorate the condition of the Romani

people as a whole. The acquisition of the Romani language instead became a tool to

justify the well-entrenched stereotypes as well as the institutionalized injustices that the

Romanies had already endured for centuries. As the Orientals of Europe, the Romanies

were also seen as absolutely different from other Europeans and were reduced to a

type, which would always color how individuals would be judged.

This Gypsy scholarship began by accident. In 1760, a Hungarian theology

student, Vyli Stefn, overheard some exchange students from India discussing the
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ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. Stefn knew some Romani laborers and had learned

some words and phrases in their idiom; upon hearing the Sanskrit words, he immediately

recognized a connection to the Romani language (Hancock, Romani People 2). In 1776,

the first article on the Indian origin of Romani was published in Austria and in 1888, the

Gypsy Lore Society was established in England (Kenrick, Dictionary xxiii, xxiv).

As suggested in the preceding paragraphs, some of these new grammars were

written by men whose reason for learning the exotic language was to aid in their

attempted proselytism of people who were viewed to be lacking in faith. Evangelist and

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pseudo-grammarian George Borrow was one such man; he translated St. Lukes Gospel

into Romani in 1837 and first published The Zincali: An Account of the Gypsies of Spain
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in 1843 (Kenrick, Dictionary xxiii). In this work he describes his time spent amongst the
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Romanies of Spain and also provides a basic (and deeply flawed) grammar of the Romani

language. His book was so popular that Borrow followed it up with several other works

about the Romanies.


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In The Zincali: An Account of the Gypsies of Spain, Borrow sets himself up as an

expert on all things Romani, as what Said refers to as a cultural decoder, to whom the

rest of the gadze, who clearly lack Borrows personal experience with the subject matter,

can turn in trying to make sense of such a strange and mysterious people as the

Romanies. Although George Borrow purports to have the Romanies best interests at

heart, his contempt for them is never far beneath the surface of his self-righteous

evangelism. Like Edward Lane in Egypt, George Borrow gains the trust of the Romanies

by misrepresenting himself as being one of them; because he has some knowledge of


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their language (something that very few other gadze have bothered to take an interest in),

he is able to pass himself off in Spain as a Romani man from England. But in spite of the

continuous hospitality that is shown to him by the Romanies, whom he secretly writes

about, and in spite of his own deceptive behavior, Borrow is constantly reminding the

reader of The Zincali: An Account of the Gypsies of Spain that the Cals are not

trustworthy, that they are considered at best as thievish chalans, and the women as half

sorceresses (167). In using expressions like wild beast (138), grotesque (138),

demons (150), wicked-looking (169), and Gypsy hag (171) to reference the

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Romanies that he supposedly wants to rescue from eternal damnation, Borrow forces the

reader to question his claimed motives. He takes giddy pleasure in relating the bizarre
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and licentious tales that are alleged to be firsthand accounts of his life amongst the
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Romanies. The objectivity of his research is dubious at best, and one is compelled to

wonder instead if these wild tales were invented to help sell his books; Borrows The

Zincali: An Account of the Gypsies of Spain so titillated the gadzo readers of his day that
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he wrote several sequels, which were also wildly popular with his European readership.

Borrow contends that he is an objective observer recounting only facts, but he perpetuates

myths that were already in circulation about the Romanies, like that they were headed by

Counts or Kings (55), even though such rumors about the Romanies have turned out

to be false. He also quotes liberally from fictional sources, expanding

. . . the legend of the hokkano bar or great trick that Gernimo de

Alcal had incorporated into his picaresque novel El donado hablador o

Alonso, mozo de muchos amos . . . and he elaborated on Juan de Quiones


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1631 tale about Francisco lvarez, the bookseller of Logrono. (Charnon-

Deutsch 94)

Borrow is not only a spy, he is also a voyeur; although Borrow insists on the

unwavering chastity of Romani women (one of the few compliments that he allows the

race), he nevertheless delights in describing the Cal womans perceived sensuality; here

we see the prototype of Carmen:

The Gypsy women and girls were the principal attractions to these visitors

[Spanish hidalgos and nobility]; wild and singular as these females are in

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their appearance, there can be no doubt, for the fact has been frequently

proved, that they are capable of exciting passion of the most ardent
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description, particularly in the bosoms of those who are not of their race,
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which passion of course becomes the more violent when the almost utter

impossibility of gratifying it is known. No females in the world can be

more licentious in word and gesture, in dance and song, than the Gitanas;
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but there they stop: and so of old, if their titled visitors presumed to seek

for more, and unsheathed dagger or gleaming knife speedily repulsed

those who expected that the gem most dear among the sect of the Roma

was within the reach of a Busno [gadzo]. (Borrow 66-7)

This passage reveals not only a less than pious outlook on the part of Borrow, who

supposedly was, after all, a savior bringing the Gospel into heathen enclaves, but also a

now familiar complete lack of objectivity with regard to his subject matter. Borrow

casually depicts his Cal hosts as being seductresses and knife-wielders, as in the excerpt
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above, as well as being thieves, swindlers, and conjurers. As if these contemptuous

allegations were not enough, Borrow insists that the Romanies have no religion, that they

are a godless people who have forsaken their ancient Indian creed and have failed to

replace it with the Christian dogma of their adopted European lands. Apparently the

Cals of Spain need a vulgar-minded gadzo to explain the finer points of Christianity to

them if they are ever to hope to find salvation.

Even while Borrow constantly notes that the Gitanos in general are very poor

and repeatedly describes their hovels and ghettos, like Triana, a Cal neighborhood in

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Seville, the most creative Christian act that Borrow is able to come up with to alleviate

their wretched condition is to preach the Gospel to them (164). Although his attitude
IE
demonstrates time and again that he does not believe that his Cal subjects are capable of
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comprehension (especially of a subject which is spiritual in nature), Borrow nevertheless

trudges on with his proselytizing, with his arduous and unthankful task of distributing

the Gospel among [the Romanies] (7). His attitude is paternalistic and self-indulgent; he
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is saving them, he is enduring personal discomfort and even incarceration in order to lift

their wretched souls out of darkness. Borrow describes the reaction of his little

congregation, made up of Cal women (apparently the men were uninterested in

salvation), after one of his impromptu sermons:

I subsequently produced a manuscript book, from which I read a portion

of Scripture, and the Lords Prayer and Apostles Creed, in Rommany.

When I had concluded I looked around me. The features of the assembly
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were twisted, and the eyes of all turned upon me with a frightful squint;

not an individual present but squinted . . . Such are the Gypsies. (211)

In his zeal, Borrow does not stop to consider that perchance his congregation was

humoring him by letting him preach, or that conceivably, being content with their own

form of spirituality, these Romanies had no need of his wholesale religion. Maybe the

assembled Cals squinted out of pity for this unorthodox English Gypsy rather than

out of an incomprehension of his words. Borrow holds on to the hope that in spite of the

stony nature of the ground onto which he casts his Christianizing seeds, that perhaps

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some of the seed that [he] scatter[s] may eventually spring up and yield excellent fruit

(205). Borrow narcissistically concludes: Of one thing I am certain: if I did the Gitanos
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no good, I did them no harm (205). This last statement is more than debatable, for while
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Borrows evangelism may not have left physical scars on the Cals, his books about them

were most certainly injurious. The stereotypes that his factual, insiders account of

Romani life concretized have continued to leave their mark on the Cal psyche up to the
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present day. Borrows books on the Romanies would serve as source material for

contemporary writers and in turn for future filmmakers, insuring that the essentialist

hijacking of Romani identity would continue well into modern times, entertaining gadzo

audiences all over the world.

As Said explains, What Orientalists . . . and other pioneers made available, the

literary crowd exploited (168). So too the literary crowd turned to George Borrow for

creative inspiration. For Romantic writers who could not afford the expenses associated

with extended travel in the Orient, the Spanish Cal proved a suitable substitute for the