The ostracization of European Roma populations is often premised on claims that they originated from elsewhere. Intriguingly, the idea of their Indian origins is embraced and rejected in almost equal proportions. What does this entail epistemologically? How does this (re)configure ideas about »India«?
Europeans have framed the Roma as a problem in many different ways over the past two hundred years. Ethnographers and linguists have seen a scholarly problem, seeking origins and characteristics. A large number of Orientalist scholars have provocatively claimed that the (European) Romani community originated from India. The search for the »origin« of the Romani, initially based on a structural analysis of the Romani language, began as early as the eighteenth century. Avishek Ray discusses how scholars and savants, in furnishing the »Indian origin« thesis, have sought to understand Roma populations— and what the thesis entails epistemologically. Why were such claims advanced and later reappropriated, even more recently? How did the narratorial articulation about the Romanies and the claim in support of their purported Indian origin (re)configure ideas about »India«?
Avishek Ray is Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Technology, Silchar (India). He works at the interface of literary, cultural, and media studies. He is the author of The Vagabond in the South Asian Imagination, Resilience, Agency and Representation (Routledge, 2021) and co-editor of Nation, Nationalism and the Public Sphere: Religious Politics in India (SAGE, 2020). Currently he is IFK_Research Fellow.
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