cover of book

Gypsy World: The Silence of the Living and the Voices of the Dead
by Patrick Williams
translated by Catherine Tihanyi
University of Chicago Press, 2003
Paper: 978-0-226-89929-9 | Cloth: 978-0-226-89928-2
Library of Congress Classification DX227.W5613 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 393.908991497044

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 Manuš, 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 Manuš see the world and their place in it. The Manuš inhabit a world created by the "Gadzos" (non-Gypsies), who frequently limit or even prohibit Manuš movements within it. To claim this world for themselves, the Manuš employ a principle of cosmological subtraction: just as the dead seem to be absent from Manuš society, argues Williams, so too do the Manuš absent themselves from Gadzo society—and in so doing they assert and preserve their own separate culture and identity.

Anyone interested in Gypsies, death rituals, or the formation of culture will enjoy this fascinating and sensitive ethnography.

See other books on: Death & Dying | Living | Romanies | Silence | Tihanyi, Catherine
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