Vlada republike SrbijeGovernment of the Republic of Serbia

Jezici

Romology

Published 15.03.2021.

Slavica DenićWritten by: Slavica Denić, Roma Inclusion Coordinator, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia

The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit has published the book Romology, representing the efforts of author Rajko Đurić to promote this important interdisciplinary field.

Romology is intended equally for the Roma and non-Roma community. In addition to the term, definition and development of romology as a scientific discipline, the book elaborates on the culture, identity, history (where an important place is reserved for the Roma holocaust), grammar and standardisation of the Roma language.

The need for romology was expressed in the late nineteen-sixties, and the awareness of its scientific importance and value stemmed from the fact that Roma are in a considerably more unfavourable position than the majority population in nearly all areas of society. Romology intends to analyse, explain and understand the place and status of the Roma community in the world it is living in, and as the author notes it should be understood as a complex science based, like every humanistic science, on ethics. It presents knowledge of people that have crossed the road from India to Europe, of various events and processes that impacted their history, social and cultural life.

Regarding the history of Roma, Đurić notes the wars of Sultan Mahmud Ghazni (971-1030) who devastated and pillaged northern and north-western India 17 times during the period between 1001 and 1027, in areas with a predominantly Roma population. Then, the Roma exodus that followed in 1192 when Muhammad of Ghor (1149-1206) left behind him approximately 40 million victims in India, including a large number of Roma. Genghis Khan (1162-1227), who united the Mongol tribes and created the Mongol Empire, left his mark on both the history of Asia and Europe. His push towards Europe accelerated the transition of Roma from near-eastern countries to Turkey and Byzantium, and thereafter towards the Balkans. The picture of Europe from the XII, XIII and XIV century shows a continent of fear, disease, particularly the plague, Inquisition, and the Crusades. However, the XX century, that was host to two world wars, marked by fascism and Nazism with victims counted in millions of people, where the Jews and the Roma have went through a holocaust, was perhaps the most barbaric”, concludes Đurić.

The author has paid particular attention to the Roma language as an extremely important element of Roma identity. He promotes the integration of the Roma community and protection from assimilation. Furthermore, the author notes that the process of standardising the Roma language can be one basis for the implementation of rights and freedoms of Roma in Europe, particularly those enshrined in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages*, ratified by many European states. The Roma community consists of people who, in addition to their native tongue, speak at least one other language, most often the language of the majority people of the country they live in, and in addition to their old, traditional beliefs and customs, they profess the religion dominant in the country they live in (most frequently Islam or Christianity).

The word romanipe (Roma-hood) designates the term for Roma culture. “A future member of the Roma community is growing up in the cradle of Roma culture”, noted Đurić. Various elements of Roma culture and family life, literary and musical work are transmitted from generation to generation, thus becoming part of the essence and consciousness of individuals. Furthermore, we should also note the most important cultural and artistic work and most important persons from various areas of Roma life (International Roma Academy of Arts and Sciences, Roma PEN Centre, European Association of Roma Writers, Documentation Centre of Sinti and Roma in Heidelberg, Roma Archive in Austin, etc.). However, the author states that the main determinant of the culture of the Roma community is the fact that of primary importance is to be, not to have. A fact that speaks in favour of this is that the Roma language does not have the verb to have (to express the idea of possession it uses a different structure, e.g. “I have money” is expressed as: Man si love in Romany, literally translated: I am being money).

With its comprehensive approach and analysis of various aspects of Roma life, this book represents a valuable starting point for research that could be of particular use as part of the academic programmes of higher education institutions in our country. “Romology should become part of the curriculum for not only Roma, but also as many non-Roma students as possible, since the scientific truth about Roma is the truth of humanity”, concludes Đurić.

We hope that Romology, encompassing nearly all elements of the identity of the Roma community, will serve as a textbook in higher education institutions in Serbia for the programme of romological studies.


Author note

Professor Dr Rajko Đurić, Chairman of the International Roma Academy of Arts and Sciences, was born on 3 October 1947 in Malo Orašje, near Smederevo. He graduated in philosophy and received his doctorate in sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. He was a journalist for the Politika daily from 1971 to 1991. He published around thirty books – collections of poetry, dramas and non-fiction about the history, culture and language of Roma, including: History of Roma, History of the Roma Holocaust (co-author Antun Miletić), History of Roma Literature and Grammar of the Roma Language. His poetry and books have been translated into German, French, English, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian and Japanese. He was the translator and co-scriptwriter for the film “I Even Met Happy Gypsies”, and the professional consultant and translator for the film “Time of the Gypsies”. He has received numerous awards and prizes. Among these are the awards from the Fund for Free Expression in New York, the Swedish PEN Centre, Open Society Institute and Cultural Centre in Madrid. Romology is his final work. He died in Belgrade on 2 November 2020.

——-

*The 54th Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted on 25 June 1992 the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, coming into force 1 March 1998. The National Assembly of Serbia and Montenegro adopted the Law on the ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (“Official Gazette of Serbia and Montenegro – International Agreements”, No. 18/05).

(The text was originally published as the Introduction to the 66th Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Newsletter.)

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