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Airdate: Jan 10, 2011
Scientist: Carol Silverman

Roma - Nomadic

Roma - Nomadic
Roma, or "gypsies" are not aimless wanderers, as centuries old belief has portrayed them.

Roma - Nomadic

Music; Ambience: Roma wedding parade

JM: The mere mention of the word "gypsy" can evoke a sense of rootless wanderlust. But the families celebrating at this gypsy street wedding in Shutka, Macedonia have lived there for generations. And history shows that other gypsies, or "Roma" as they call themselves, have been rooted in their home countries for centuries. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Carol Silverman studies Roma culture and teaches at the University of Oregon.

CS: "I don't think Roma are nomadic. I think Roma sometimes, and some groups, have been nomadic, but even if you go back to the fourteen hundreds, most Roma in Eastern Europe were sedentary."

JM: Today gypsies can be found living in isolated ghettos, or in makeshift shanty towns on the edges of eastern European cities. Roma have been persecuted for hundreds of years -- held as slaves in eastern Europe until the 1860's, and targeted by the Nazis for extermination during the Holocaust. According to Silverman, the romantic notion of the carefree gypsy bears little resemblance to the everyday lives of real Roma.

CS: "So this whole idea of nomadism as defining Roma to me is an outsider perception. It helps outsiders think that there's a group that's so different from us that they don't have roots. I know people in Eastern Europe who have been there for hundreds of years -- they feel very patriotic toward Bulgaria or toward Yugoslavia. I mean aside from the politics... place means a lot to many, many Roma."

JM: We'll hear about efforts to unite far-flung Roma populations in a future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.