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Charting the variety of aspirations of Romani/Gypsy groups in Turkey

Charting the variety of aspirations of Romani/Gypsy groups in Turkey

Acton, Thomas and Marsh, Adrian (2007) Charting the variety of aspirations of Romani/Gypsy groups in Turkey. Project Report. Economic and Social Research Council, Swindon.

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A unique study documents the emergence of contemporary Romani or Gypsy politics in Turkey and analyses identity within this diverse population that is locally known as Çingene . With Turkey’s EU candidacy this ethnic group’s relationship with the wider Turkish society has increased in importance as the EU requires Turkey to meet certain conditions concerning treatment of minority groups.

Main findings-Population
•The extent of the population of Çingene in Turkey is under-represented. The research estimates some 3-6 million, much higher than the million estimated in the 1990s. The rising population reflects how it has become increasingly acceptable to be seen as Çingene.
•The Çingene may be classified into three populations marked by differing dialects:
oOne to three million Roma
o100,000 Dom
oA few thousand Lom or Pocha
•The three Çingene populations are associated, respectively with areas of Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian traditions. The majority are sedentary although there are important commercial-nomadic strands.
•Much of Turkish society also considers other commercial nomadic but non- Çingene groups, such as the Teber Abdaller, as Çingene simply because of their nomadic lifestyle.

•Within these broad categories, groups cannot be simply divided into ethnic, regional, occupational or dialect groups, since each of these dimensions of identity cross-cuts the others. For example, Doms perform their identity differently in relation to Turks and to Kurds; and differently in the towns to in the countryside, where patron-client relationships with local notables are crucial to maintaining their economic niche. Some Doms, such as musicians, put their occupation as central to their cultural identity. Other male informants define their identity relative to other groups in terms of gender relations: who they would or would not marry.
•Many Çingene live close to other Çingene groups meaning that most perceive their identity in relation to local groups, rather than to the gross disparity between Çingene and Turks. For instance, in rural Thrace, a teahouse owner identified himself as Eiris Rom and therefore as different to his odd-job man (Khorakhane Rom). They were however united in looking down on the Roma living in tents and shacks on the edge of the community.
•Both Romani and Dom languages continue to flourish in Turkey. Dialects vary enormously between sub-ethnic groups and it is common to find multi-dialectal individuals who help facilitate conversations with different Çingene groups in Turkey and even with Roma from elsewhere in Europe.

Changing Identity
•Identities and roles are not fixed. All groups have narratives about how things had changed with both personal and collective strategies for social mobility that are culturally specific.
•Turkey’s EU candidacy encourages forming Roma Associations which brings in new attitudes. At the first meeting of the National Romani Federation, local representatives argued for the need for unity, co-operation and trying to turn the Kemal Ataturk’s support for social equality for Roma into reality. By contrast, those outside Turkey emphasized European help available to gain effective legal redress against abuses of state power.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Additional Information: [1] This report is available on the official ESRC website archive of Project Reports. The Report was graded "outstanding" by the ESRC.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Romani, Gypsy, Turkey, identity, social-history, Çingene, marginalised communities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Social, Political & Cultural Studies
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:13

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