Symbols and Rituals in the Mobilisation of the Romani National Ideal


  • Slawomir Kapralski

    1. Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities
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    • Dr Slawomir Kapralski, a sociologist and social anthropologist, was educated at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. For many years associated with the Central European University (Prague, Warsaw, and Budapest), he is presently a Lecturer at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities and at the Centre for Social Studies/Graduate School for Social Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. His research interests focus on nationalism, ethnicity and identity, collective memory, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and the Roma and Sinti in Europe. He is a member of the Gypsy Lore Society.


This article analyses recent attempts of Roma/Gypsy organisations to construct a pan-Romani ethnic-national identity. It is argued that although Roma do not fit the classical picture of a nation, in the globalised world such a project of transnational or diasporic identity may be viable in spite of the fragmentation of Romani communities. The article presents two groups of rituals employed by the Romani political movement: linguistic rituals, associated with the attempt to introduce an umbrella concept of ‘Roma’, and rituals of remembrance, which ‘authenticate’ certain streams of Romani history to introduce among Roma a sense of a common past. The article concludes that the ritual approach may be an efficient method to study the project of Romani national identity. With functions similar to religious ritual, Romani political rituals form a bridge between empirical Roma identity and the projected national identity, although in other contexts there may be little communication between them.