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«February 2020»

Fellow Seminar

07 February 2019

Dr. Avishek Ray will present his research proposal on the topic: "The Vicissitude of Orientalism: On the Myth(ification) of the Indian Origin of the Romani " on 7 February 2019 (Thursday) at 16:30h.


A large number of Orientalist scholars have provocatively claimed that the (European) Roma community had originated from India. The search for the ‘origin' of the Roma, based on a structural analysis of the Romani language, started as early as the eighteenth century, and the premise of the claim more often than not rests on homophony and syntax -- sometimes rather flimsy -- between the Romani and the Indic languages. My proposed research questions the structuralist premise that buttresses such claims, and problematizes the methodological apparatuses deployed therein. It seeks to understand: How does the narratorial articulation concerning the Romanies and the claim in support of their purported Indian origin forge links with the imagination of ‘India'?

The Orientalists were -- as it has been reinforced by genetic evidence furnished in 2012 -- actually right. But my argument is not based along the lines of veracity. What I am rather concerned with is: Do homophony and morphology, methodologically speaking, suffice as sufficient proof for the originary connection the Orientalists were set out to make? Better still, is the claim analytically arrived at, or synthetically apriorized in order to commensurate with the Orientalist worldview? Why, when and how did the claim gain currency? Why and how was the originary myth of the Roma conceived in the first place? Why, despite an arguable methodology, was/is this claim so widely accepted? Why are scholars and bureaucrats since the eighteenth century and some until very recently obsessed with ‘re-discovering' the ‘primordial' connection between ‘India' and the Roma, or more generally speaking, the ethos of wandering?



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