Roma (Gypsy) History and Culture
Europe’s largest minority, commonly known in English as “Gypsies,” more properly referred to as Roma, Sinti or Gitano, have been enslaved, hunted down, imprisoned, and generally reviled; at the same time, they have fascinated members of the majority, and writers, artists, and composers have exploited the exotic flavoring they find in the image of “Gypsiness.” Roma musicians are also indispensable to folk and popular music practices around the European continent. In this course, we will survey historical events in Roma history and address problems in writing about a people whose culture is perceived as predominantly oral. We will also examine both how this “mysterious” group has been represented, especially through music, and how its members have responded creatively to these representations.
Through the use of current research and writing techniques and oral presentations, students will demonstrate a broad knowledge of the Roma, their history, and their evolving role in global society and culture. This course does not require a background in East European studies, music, or film; we will do quite a bit of directed listening, viewing, and writing in class.