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Products for grant FT-265301-19

Race, Language, and Roma Culture in the Islamic Middle Ages
Kristina Richardson, University of Virginia

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Invisible Strangers, or Romani History Reconsidered (Article)
Title: Invisible Strangers, or Romani History Reconsidered
Author: Richardson, Kristina L.
Abstract: The history of the Roma is seldom taught in universities, but some key moments are generally known. Based on analysis of the Romani language, Roma tribes likely originated in ancient India. They appear abruptly in central European sources in the 15th century. In the modern era, their persecution during the Holocaust. But what happened in the millenium spent migrating through Central Asia and the Middle East? In a recent publication (Richardson 2017), we learn that as early as the 9th century, a heterogeneous tribal confederation, known in Arabic as the Banu Sasan, comprised not only the Roma, but also the Armenian Lom and Levantine Dom Gypsies of Indian origin, as well as Arabic-speaking and Persian-speaking itinerant groups indigenous to the Middle East. They shared a tribal dialect known as Sin that is still spoken in Egypt and the Sudan today.In the 13th century the Banu Sasan renamed themselves Strangers, an autonym that denoted Gypsy-like peoples, broadly, of any geographical origin or language group. This essay examines the invisibility of the Strangers in Middle Eastern and Central Asian historiography. In the first half of this study, I seek to show how the work of 19th- and 20th-century European and North American philologists, medievalists, and ethnographers delegitimized the Strangers’ language and the culture that this language expressed. The erasure of this language, culture, and people from modern historiography was nearly total. In the latter half I consider how the Roma community’s political responses in the wake of the Holocaust drew on Nazi racial categories to shape modern Roma identity.
Year: 2019
Access Model: subscription access
Format: Journal
Publisher: History of the Present: A Journal of Critical History

Roma in the Medieval Islamic World: Literacy, Culture and Migration (Book)
Title: Roma in the Medieval Islamic World: Literacy, Culture and Migration
Author: Kristina Richardson
Abstract: In Middle Eastern cities as early as the mid-8th century, the Sons of Sasan begged, trained animals, sold medicinal plants and potions, and told fortunes. They captivated the imagination of Arab writers and playwrights, who immortalized their strange ways in poems, plays, and the Thousand and One Nights. Using a wide range of sources, Richardson investigates the lived experiences of these Sons of Sasan, who changed their name to Ghuraba' (Strangers) by the late 1200s. This name became the Arabic word for the Roma and Roma-affiliated groups also known under the pejorative term 'Gypsies'. This book uses mostly Ghuraba'-authored works to understand their tribal organization and professional niches as well as providing a glossary of their language Sin. It also examines the urban homes, neighborhoods, and cemeteries that they constructed. Within these isolated communities they developed and nurtured a deep literary culture and astrological tradition, broadening our appreciation of the cultural contributions of medieval minority communities. Remarkably, the Ghuraba' began blockprinting textual amulets by the 10th century, centuries before printing on paper arrived in central Europe. When Roma tribes migrated from Ottoman territories into Bavaria and Bohemia in the 1410s, they may have carried this printing technology into the Holy Roman Empire.
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Publisher: I.B. Tauris
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9781784537319
Copy sent to NEH?: No