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Diploma thesis

I spent the last two weeks doing nothing. Well, not quite doing nothing. At some points I was actually working a little bit for my diploma thesis. At this point I am pretty sure about what I want to do and why. I have told some of my friends about my plan and they are all very interested. This is why I decided to publish the abstract, or Expose as you would say in Germany, here. Feedback is very welcome!!!!!!!!! Note: you might find it easier to also read my source of inspiration (Fukuoka?s work)

Elaborating Identity Types of Roma in Romania
With a Special Emphasis on the Phenomenon of ?Passing?


Abstract: The object of this research is to identify different identity types of Roma in Romania. A special emphasis will be put on the question to which degree the different identity types use the concept of ?passing? as a strategy of social survival.

Definitions:
- ?Passing is a person's being regarded as a member of a social class other than his or her own, such as a different sex, race, or disability status, generally with the purpose of gaining social acceptance or of comporting with the person's own cultural or gender identity.? (Wikipedia. The free Encyclopedia. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passing)
- Identity Types: In his study ?Beyond Assimilation and Dissimilation: Diverse resolutions to Identity Crises among Younger Generation Koreans in Japan? Yasunori Fukuoka (www.han.org/a/fukuoka96b.html) elaborates four different identity types among young Korean nationals in Japan. He defines a horizontal and a vertical dividing line that define the different types. The horizontal line is the ?Degree of Interest in the History of the Oppressed Koreans? and the vertical the ?Degree of Attachment to the Japanese Community? they are living in. For every identity type he gives the example of one individual. (sorry could not put the graphics here. Please check at Fukuoka online version of his study)


The goal of my research is to create a scheme similar to Fukuoka?s for Romania?s Roma population (and to give examples for each type). Of course Romania?s Roma can not be compared to the Korean minority in Japan one to one. A lot of care will have to be taken to take the Roma?s special background into consideration while creating the identity types.
What are obvious differences? On the one hand Roma from Romania are a very diverse group and they have not seen their home country for more than a thousand years. Therefore there is no such wish as returning to it. Roma have been living in the countries they are living in for centuries but still they are conceived as outsiders by the majority population of these countries. Furthermore the conception of ?Roma? or ?Gypsy? is a term more widely used by outsiders to define the group than by Roma themselves. This might mean for example that some Roma would identify for example as ?Kalderash? but not as ?Gypsy?. On the other hand those Roma who do not follow the traditional lifestyle anymore might find it hard define themselves as ?Roma? or ?Gypsy? because of the negative connotations of theses terms.

The first goal of my research shall be to define the dividing lines of the identity types. Are these material conditions, which group they come from, education, knowledge about Roma history etc?
After having defined different identity types according to the dividing lines I will look at how the different types make use of the concept of passing. How often, when, why, how does it make them feel etc.? Do they conceive it as something immoral, just a way of getting a job, does it put them into a serious identity crisis/ makes them feel bad about there origins? One hypothesis could be ?the higher on the social ladder the more passing? (I will try to elaborate a definition of social status that will be based upon what the majority population conceives as high or low social status). Which group is obliged the most to pass? Poor Roma might feel no need for passing because it would not change their material position whereas ?Intellectuals? might risk to lose their job or reputation if they revealed their origin. On the other hand Intellectuals might be more aware of the history of the Roma and their need to unify against discrimination.
Another question I would like to ask is whether they think that it is legitimit of the majority to expect them to reveal their origins. As in: ?I never met a Romanian that confessed to me that he is a straight, orthodox, ethnic Romanian?


Target Group: For the purpose of my survey I will try to consider Roma from many different backgrounds as to see how conceptions change according to the reality they grew up in. It might be neccessary to create standardized background groups (for example different Roma groups, poor from the country side, from the city etc). I will concentrate on people between age 25-35. This has two reasons:
On the one hand I would like to stick to the young because of the idea that it is the new generation that is going to provoke change. Furthermore they did not grow up under communism and are therefore more likely to reflect upon the post-communist reality they are living in today whereas the older generation would most likely talk about experiences which are no longer valid today.
On the other hand I would like to talk to people that are of an age in which people are usually supporting themselves and no longer depend on their parents (in order to take the aspect of job discrimination into account).
My target group will consist out of 50% males and 50% females. The conception of identity might differentiate between the sexes. (In India for example it is mostly the females that are expected to keep traditions alive. This leads to the fact that females are almost expected to dress traditionally whereas it is very unlikely for a male to do so. The degree to which one follows traditions might have an impact on the perception of ones identity)

Methodology: The first step will be to create background groups. I will do this based upon library and internet research not upon Interviews.
The second step will be to define the dividing lines and the identity types. I will do this by in-depth interview.
Once the identity types are defined I will look for examples of each type. I will conduct interviews with these subjects centered about the question of (ethnic) identity, identity crisis, and passing. The interviews will be a mixture of in-depth and narrative interview because I want my subjects to speak freely without interruption but I also need to have a minimum of questions which all subjects will have to answer in order to assure comparability.


The main goal of this research is to find out something new. The only presumptions I have so far is that there are different identity types and that passing can be found among Romania?s Roma population. I did not define the dividing lines and the identity types yet and I will do so only after the first phase of interviews. I want my subjects to define them themselves or to elaborate them myself by comparing the responses rather than to just ask whether the lines I defined are good or not.
As already stated above there will be seperate interviews once the identity types are defined. This interview will deal with the issues of (ethnic) identity, identity crisis, passing, etc.. The goal is to find out which forms passing takes in Romania. It would be interesting to see how it compares to passing examples from other cultures such as African Americans or Koreans in Japan.




Some Personal Thoughts about passing

There are two examples in literature about passing which I would like to take into consideration for my diploma thesis. On the one hand there is the African American minority in the United States on the other hand there is the Korean minority in Japan.
African Americans came to the territory of nowadays USA between the 17 and the beginning of the 19 century. They were inhabitants of the Western parts of Afrika from were they were kidnapped or bought from their ?owners?. There were traditions of slavery in Western Africa at that time but they were by no means as cruel as the forms slavery took on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Once the Africans arrived in the new world they were sold and from that day on had to work for their owners.
Slavery in the USA lastet until 1868. Slaves had no control over their own lives. They had to do the jobs they were asigned to and any kind of protest was punished with torture. Families were often seperated when family members were sold away. Sometimes even little babies were taken away from their mothers. Slave women often fell victim to rape. By their owners, by their overseers and by males that visited the plantations were they were living. True love afairs were rare and it has to be taken into consideration that still today most of the ?white? in African Americans is the result of centuries of rape. This thought is extremly upsetting when observing that there are only very few African Americans today who are 100% black. Raping of Slave women had several ?purposes?. It meant, for example pleasure, to the men who raped them but was also a sign to African American men ?We have perfect control over you: you are not even able to protect your own women?. Constant degradation of black people was at the core of a slave holders mentality because the lower the self esteem the less the chances of rebellion.
After the end of slavery and even today love relations between blacks and whites are a taboo in the United states. A modern example is the singer Mariah Carey. Having a black grandfather makes her be black in the eyes of the white but her pale complexions make many black people regard her as white.
The resulting identity crisis that white people with black ancestors might face can take many different forms. Some might chose to be black, some might chose to be white and some might just say that they are a mixture. This is were the phenomenon of passing occurs. If you are of mixed racial origin but feel that you will face discrimination if you revealed your origins or have already experienced it than some peoples response might be to ?pass? as white. This step is problematic because it means that you will have to tell a lie for the rest of your life about who you really are and that you can never feel comfortable about your background. Furthermore you are concealing your identity to others and by doing so are sending a message ?being black is bad?. If your true you should ever be discovered people will accuse you of having acted immoraly of having told a lie.

The case of the Koreans in Japan is a little different. Most Koreans in Japan today are the offspring of Korean immigrants who came during the twenties and thirties of the last century when Korea was a Japanese colony. Many of them are still today lacking Japanese citizenship and are considered to be Koreans by the Japanes majority population. In contrast to African Americans there is no history of rape of Korean women resulting in mixed race off spring. Koreans and Japanese simply do look alike and there is no way you can tell by someones looks if he or she is Korean or Japanese. This results in the fact that all Koreans in Japan have the possibiliy to pass. The resulting identity conflicts can be compared to those of light skinned African Americans who do not know into which world they belong.

The Roma from Romania have more in common with the African Americans from the USA than with the Koreans in Japan. Furthermore there are certain aspects to this minority group which makes them be unique. Roma left their original territory which is situated in nowadays northern India more than a thousand years ago. Since the they have migrated westwards in different phases. The first Roma arrived in Romania sometime during the 13 or 14 century. Exact dates are not available. Upon arriving in Romania they very quickly became slaves and the history of slavery is very similar to the one of the African Americans in the USA. Including rape. Slavery ended during the second half of the 19th century but still today love relationships between Roma and none Roma are a taboo in Romania. Genetic research shows that at least 50% some scholars say even 60% of the Roma?s genetic pool is similar to that of the people they are surrounded by. Once again it has to be pointed out that most of the ?white? in the Roma is a result of centuries of rape. Today there are Roma of many different skin tones in Romania. There are those that are blonde, there are those who have brown hair, those who have darker complexions and those who are very dark. There has been no or little research done about the phenomenon of passing in Romania. When reading a sociological report about Roma you might find that passing is mentioned but as far as I know there has been no study conducted which deals exclusively with the passing issue. Many scholars describe that Roma might pretend to be Romanian in order to get a job. In Germany some Roma have adopted Jewish names because with a Jewish name they have more success than with a Roma name. Others who are of darker complexions might pretend to be Turks, Persians, Indians or even Africans. Everything is better than being Roma....
My goal for my diploma thesis is to explore the forms which passing takes among Romania?s Roma polpulation since.

Is Passing Immoral?
Passing is often conceived as something immoral. Pretending to be someone you are not is considered to be a lie. Trying to be white when you are black, straight when you are gay, or healthy when you are handicapped. My personal opinion is that it is hard to define the borders between passing and just not telling everything to everyone. Why should a person that looks white be expected to ?confess? to everyone that he has black ancestors when no one would expect a dark skinned person to confess that he has some white ancestors? Has there ever been a Romanian who confessed to a ?Gypsy? that he is straight, orthodox, and of romanian ethnicity? Is it not immoral to expect people to reveal who they are to everyone? Is it not my own business whether or not I tell people that I have gastritis? Why would anyone just come to me and ask ?Do you have any chronic diseases?? In my opinion it is not the passing itself that is immoral but the circumstances that make it neccessary to pass. How can you judge someone that is passing in order to escape from poverty? Judge the reasons why that person is poor but not the person for whishing to escape from it.
Even though I believe that passing is not immoral I do agree that it creates problems and might even prevent problems from being solved. A person that is passing is indicating that it is bad to be black, gay, Roma etc. For the individual it means that if he or she is not honest about her origins she will have a personal gain from it. To society it symbolizes that it is bad to be black etc. As a result neither the ?passers? nor society will encounter positive examples of people who are open about their origin and actively fight discrimination.





- If you want to learn more about Slavery in the USA I can advice you to read the novel ?Roots? by Alex Haley. It is his family history starting from the first African that was brought to the US up to him. This book makes you understand the cruelties of Slavery.
- If you want to learn more about passing in the US you can read ?Queen? which is also by Alex Haley. This books also deals with the generations of his family but puts an emphasis on his paternal grandmother who was ?white as cotton? or ?a child of the plantation?. This book will make you understand the dilemma of someone who feels neither black nor white.
- As many of you might now Thomas Jefferson also had children with his slave Sally Hemmings who was already white due to three generations of raped grandmothers. If you google-search for ?Sally Hemmings? you shall find a lot of information.
- The latest novel about the passing issue is ?The Huma Stain? by Philip Roth. It is about a light skinned University professor who fools everyone into believeing that he is jewish. He gets fired because of a racist remark he made during one of his classes.
- If you want to learn more about the Korean m inoritz in Japan go to www.han.org
- If you want to learn more about Roma slavery in Romania you can read the ?Pariah Syndrome? by Ian Hancock. This is not a novel but a scientific book and if you have read ?Roots? you will realize that there are a lot of similarities between slavery in the US and slavery in Romania including the rape issue and the resulting white offspring. You can find the online version at http://www.geocities.com/Paris/5121/pariah-contents.htm
1.11.05 21:57


pictures

Does anyone have an idea of how to shrink pictures to a smaller megabyte size? I don?t manage to put the pictures from Georgia online because it takes too much space...
1.11.05 22:01


Messenger

I have to admit that sometimes I am a little late when it comes to modern technology. It was only in the year 2000 that I became an e-mail-junkie, only in 2004 that I finally bought a cell phone (whose phone bill you do not want to see), and only last week that I finally joined the ever growing group of messenger users. I never wanted to install it before because I thought that it would distract me from working (same reason why I did not want to have internet during the first year of university...). By now I am almost an expert! I have even joined two messengers: Yahoo and msn. Ever since last week I am sitting in front of my computer waiting for my friends to go online. Of course I am not as far as making messenger appointments yet which is why I am VERY frustrated!!! People are never online when I am! Well, on the first day I catched dear Willu for half an hour and yesterday and today I catched Henrieke. It is a cyberfriendshipworld which allows me to communicate with people in Germany, the Netherlands and even from the Fidji Islands (Unfortunately I do not know anyone from the latter...) BUT what is it worth if there is no one online when I need it???? Will I become one of those freaky people that chat with strangers, eventually meet them and then get married, just because my friends are not there? Well, I am already married so I do not think that this is going to happen but I know tons of people who met their partner online. Please! If you guys want to keep me from chatting with strangers be online day and night and I shall never be lonely again.....
1.11.05 22:25


You Never Stop Learning

Today I realized once again that you never stop learning. Why? I am the proud owner of a leather coat. It is black, it is beautiful but I am freezing when I am wearing it. I cannot wear it in the summer because then it is too heavy on me but already in the fall it is not giving me enough protection against the cold. So, practical as I am I decided to sell it. I have a lot of coats and anyways I will have a hard time bringing all my stuff back to Germany should I ever leave Romania?. Most of my other ?international friends? just donated the clothes they did not need anymore but this coat was quite expensive. ?No problem? I thought! There are so many stores in Cluj that advertise ?Second Hand din Germania?. Well, my coat is also from Germany and where else to sell it than in a ?second hand? or thrift store. The most normal thing in the world. I remember doing that a lot when I was litttle, or better, my mother would do that because I tended to grow everytime she bought me something new?.
On a lovely Saturday morning I decide to try my luck. I take the bus and got to that fancy thrift store I pass everytime I go downtown. ?Maybe they are not going to take it? I think because even in Germany the fancy stores usually don?t buy but only sell. And of course that very unfriendly lady behind the counter looks at me and says ?Nu!??.. Do make me understand that this is the last thing she is ging to tell me she continues to talk on the phone. In Hungarian which I do not understand. A situation only to be found in Eastern Europe. I start to think about whether I should start to learn Hungarian. Only problem: my Romanian sucks and I do not feel like learning another language at this point of time.
I take the next bus and go to another thrift store. It is not as fancy as the first one and last year they sold leather and fur coats. Why should I not try my luck there? The lady behind this counter is a little nicer but also says ?Nu?. Then she adds ?What if a control came?!? I look at her and ask ?control?? ?Well yes!? I ask her almost in a joking manner ?Is it illegal to buy clothes from customers?? I almost start laughing at that thought because what else would a thrift store be there for. ?Of Course!? she says with a little panic in her voice. I start to feel very stupid. So, Romanian thrift stores sell used stuff from Germany but it is illegal to sell used stuff from Romania! I leave the store and think to myself ?Well, I will just put an add into "Piata" and hope that I will not be arrested?.
5.11.05 13:57


Yes I know: I am in Romania!

And yet another story where people will tell me afterwards: Tanja! You are in Romania!

Well anyways, I have to share it because maybe if I complain enough it will change. Remember when I was in Georgia for the first time I hated the whole situation there and only 2 months later everything changed! Maybe it is going to work out this time too.

Anyways. As most of you know I have two lovely flat mates. Florica and Elena. Well they were born in Hateg and now they go to high school in Cluj. This does not mean that they have any rights in either Hateg nor Cluj! Why? Because their grandmother (well they are twins even though you would never guess) owns a house in Valcea which is almost at the other end of the country. In Hateg they were staying in a rented appartment with their parents and in Cluj they stay with me, also in a rented appartment.
It all started when Elena went to the local library to ask how to make a pass: "You need to have permanent residence in Cluj!" Was the answer. Let me clarify something: Permanent residence in Romanina means "Domiciliu Stabil". It indicates that this is the place where you own a house or apartment. If you stay in rent you cannot have domiciliu stabil there because it is not your property. You have to go to the police and declare that you stay in rent. They will register you and give you a "flotant". Flotant means that you live there but it is not your property and therefore not your domiciliu stabil. Therefore a flotant is not enough to make a library pass. Also, if you stay in another city for more than two weaks you have to make a flotant there because otherwise you would be something like an illegal immigrant. Even if you just wanted to visit your parents? And don task me what you have to do when you go on vacation?..
So, Elena cannot get a library pass in Cluj because she does not own a house here. But it gets even worse: Elena needs a passport! And of course she will only get one in Valcea which means that she will have to go there at least three times until she finally holds it in her hands, or she could buy a house in Cluj and get one from here?..
9.11.05 16:55


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