Living in a world of others: A politics of grace and favors in a Romanian mahala

Ana Chiriţoiu


The phrase “Roma politics” has come to designate several topics, such as the movement for Roma rights, relations between Roma and non-Roma, or the maintenance of social order in a given group, but these have rarely been addressed together. This is what the present article sets out to do, through the case study of a Roma politician from a southern Romanian town who finds himself in a liminal position between local non-Roma party politics, transnational Romani activism, and the values of his community. He and his fellow Rom negotiate their social relations through an ideology of “help” and “charity,” which I compare to Pitt-Rivers’s notion of “grace,” showing that the decidedly hierarchical political imaginary that suffuses the real-life politics of the Rom is far removed from the abstract apolitical egalitarianism through which transnational institutions and activists frame “Roma politics.”

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/723030