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Two Win Gypsy Lore Society Young Scholars’ Prize in Romani Studies

posted Feb 27, 2015, 6:47 AM by Sheila Salo   [ updated Feb 27, 2015, 6:52 AM ]

The screening committee of the Gypsy Lore Society Young Scholar’s Prize in Romani Studies has announced two winners of the prize for 2014. The winners are John Emrys Morgan for the paper “‘Counterfeit Egyptians’: The Construction and Implementation of a Criminal Identity and Štěpán Ripka for “‘Do You Want to Have Fellowship With Us?’ Kinship and Conversions of Roma to Charismatic Christianity.”

John Emrys Morgan is a PhD Candidate at the Department of History, University of Warwick. His interests are in the field of early modern social, cultural and environmental history, specifically in early modern identities and early modern water politics.

Štěpán Ripka received his PhD in 2014 from the Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague with a co-tutelle at University of Bayreuth. He is an ethnographer with interest in Pentecostalism, Roma, development, and homelessness. He serves as a chairman of an advocacy coalition whose aim is to end homelessness through a system of social housing in the Czech Republic.

The Gypsy Lore Society established the Marian Madison Gypsy Lore Society Young Scholars’ Prize in Romani Studies for the best unpublished paper by a young scholar on a topic in Gypsy and Traveler Studies. The prize is a cash award of $500.  The winning papers will be published, after any necessary revisions, in an issue of the journal Romani Studies.

The deadline for receipt of papers for the current cycle is October 30, 2015. A full announcement was published in the November 2011 issue of the Newsletter and on the Gypsy Lore Society web site, http://www.gypsyloresociety.org.

Abstracts of the Prize Papers

John Morgan. ‘Counterfeit Egyptians’: The Construction and Implementation of a Criminal Identity. English law first began to mark out ‘Egyptians’ as a separate, criminalised group in the sixteenth century. This article examines the ways in which statute law constructed and implemented an ‘Egyptian’ identity, and the effect this had on those prosecuted. A close reading of the four Tudor ‘Egyptian’ statutes is provided, and relevant material from sixteenth and seventeenth century legal and judicial sources is compared to assess the statutes’ implementation. By focussing on the legal construction of the ‘Egyptian’ identity, this article illuminates the ways in which the early modern state attempted to exert control over ‘Egyptians’. This was attempted through the application of loose definitions based around itinerancy and non-nativity that could be applied with great discretion. This ‘discretionary impulse’ connects the experience of ‘Egyptians’ with other travellers in the period, whilst enabling the agents of the State to exercise particularly close punishment and control. By moving away from traditional literary sources, focussing on legal sources, and by examining a legally constructed identity, this article avoids reifying biases found in the traditional sources for ‘Gypsy’ history in the period that have clouded previous histories, and sheds light on the history of state-driven marginalisation and persecution.

Štěpán Ripka. “Do You Want to Have Fellowship With Us?” Kinship and Conversions of Roma to Charismatic Christianity. Various authors have noted a relationship between conversions of Roma to Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity and kinship: cases when whole kin groups converted or withdrew from the churches, or even when kin-churches were formed. Kinship is often seen as an explanatory factor of conversions (and de-conversions). My fieldwork in a Charismatic Romani congregation on the Czech-German borderlands, however, made me rethink this connection: kinship became a black box rather than a factor in conversion processes. I present a conflict which arose in my fieldwork where kinship was at stake. I come to the conclusion that my Roma informants were much more reflexive about kinship than the German missionary, who held that their behaviour was a pure function of blood-ties and it should be changed. They kept a Schneiderian-like concept of kinship which differentiates between substance and code of conduct. I also offer a classification of interrelations between kinship and conversion: how kinship relations have been strategically used by missionaries to proselytize, how and to what extent relatedness could be a factor, catalyst or mediator of conversions (and de-conversions), and how and to what extent kinship is the organizational principle of Charismatic and Pentecostal congregations.