Preliminary considerations to the Forum Tsiganologische Forschung The development and the objectives of the FTF In 1998 Prof. Bernhard Streck, director of the Institute for Ethnology at the University of Leipzig, began to raise the interest in the cultures of Romanies/Gypsies among his students. Up to this day the seminar originating from that time has taken place every semester and the number of students occupied with Tsiganologie (Romani/Gypsy Studies) has steadily increased. It is for this reason that postgraduates and students decided to establish the study group Projektseminar Tsiganologie. Since the winter semester of 2002 scholars from all age groups – such as students, postgraduates and also the more experienced ones up to the professor – are working together in the seminars and projects on Romani/Gypsy Studies to consolidate the basis for an ethnologically oriented discussion on Romani/Gypsy cultures, doing so with active thought exchange within the study group and with international scholars. Several students heading towards their Magister respectively their Master degree as well as several postgraduate students are currently doing research on different aspects of Gypsy cultures.

We therefore decided to institutionalise the study group. Early in 2005 the FTF established itself as the only German institution organising research on the transnational, national and local groups of Romanies/Gypsies from an ethnological perspective. The FTF’s two main objectives are an ethnologic-tsiganological education of students on the one hand and an intensive national and international interconnection of (also second generation) scholars on the other hand. This website shall serve as a platform for these contacts. Workshops and conferences are intended to make the (scientific) public more familiar with tsiganological topics. We are sure, with this agenda, to be able to make a decisive contribution to a more differentiated discussion on this issue.

Some remarks on the terminology and concepts we are using

In Germany and Europe the adequate naming of Romanies/Gypsies is still highly controversial – this becomes obvious not least in the current dispute around the memorial in Berlin. Many Romanies/Gypsies consider the term „Zigeuner“ (whose etymological origin to us is eventually nothing but speculative) insulting and instead promote „Roma“/„Romanies“ as a non-discriminatory group name (with „rom“ simply meaning „man“ in the Romani language). Still on the opposite side other Romanies/Gypsies advocate the perpetual use of the extrinsic term as they themselves consider the term „Roma“ discriminatory. They bring forward the argument that the ethnonym of a large subgroup (Romanies who migrated from south-eastern Europe to western Europe and America primarily in the 19th century) is being generalised and that other subgroups (e.g. Sinti, Kalé, Ashkali) are thus being neglected. By officially using the notional pair „Roma/Zigeuner“ („Romanies/Gypsies“) the FTF likes to demonstrate that it is dealing scholarly differentiated with the problem of an adequate naming of the heterogenous transethnic minority while it is seriously trying to avoid advocating one of these differing positions within political arguments. It is left to every single member of the FTF to decide individually which would be the most apropriate term to be used. In any concrete case it might be reasonable to make use of the particular subgroup’s exact ethnonym (e.g. Kalderash, Xoraxané, Manouche, Jat, Roma, or simply Zigeuner or Gypsies).

The basic approaches in tsiganological research

In our studies and research we are not dealing with Romanies/Gypsies as a homogenous ethnic group but we are approaching the multitude of groups existing in an interactive relationship with their social environment under the paradigm of a tsiganological relationism. As a minority they are always at the mercy of the surrounding majority (in Romani: the „gadje“, the non-gypsies), which stereotypes „its minorities“ and tries either to integrate or at least to discipline them. During the history of this inter-ethnic relation the Romanies/Gypsies often suffered stigmatization and discrimination as well as racism and persecution and still today many nation states are having troubles with showing the necessary tolerance towards their Romani/Gypsy minorities’ „cosmopolitan way of life“. But Romanies/Gypsies have always developed autochthonous strategies how to react on the majority and its boundaries – which makes them comparable on an international scale. In accordance with recent ethnological approaches in Romani/Gypsy Studies we recognise the different Roma/Gypsy cultures as ethnic groups which are always part of the majority’s society and at the same time form a stand-alone part of a minority culture. The cultures of the Romanies/Gypsies and those of the „gadje“ are related through perpetual exchange and as a general rule the Romanies/Gypsies adapt to the majority’s society to a certain extent. Nevertheless in some spheres which they consider important they dissociate from the majority and preserve their uniqueness and independence by this means. Simultaneously they are being ostracised by the „gadje“. The Romani/Gypsy cultures thus can be regarded as a cultural web of conjunctions and they connect spheres being situated within and outside the majority’s culture (the FTF logo visualises this perception). That’s why the ethnic groups forming the Romanies/Gypsies are getting defined from the inside as well as from the outside. Because there are different basic conditions in each country and state for the already inhomogeneous cultural schemes of the Romanies/Gypsies, one can certainly find only few „peoples“ having developed such a cultural plenitude like the Romanies/Gypsies. Central to our preoccupation with Romani/Gypsy cultures is the usage of ethnological theories and research instruments in our studies. At the same time we presume that a transnational minority like this can only be prospected adequately with interdisciplinary exchange and efforts. On the basis of this briefly outlined concept of Romanies/Gypsies as an ensemble of minorities engaged in interactions with the majoritarian population we are interested in all varieties of discourse analytical, historical, linguistic, sociological, musicological, etc. research. Now that Romani/Gypsy minorities are at home on every continent and beyond any boundaries we are open for research in Romani/Gypsy Studies without any limitations of place and time.

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