Rom - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The economic Organization of the Rom, like that of most Gypsies, has been characterized by what in recent years has come to be called a "peripatetic adaptation," or sometimes "commercial nomadism." Although much less nomadic and more urbanized today, the adaptation of the Rom remains an ethnically organized, opportunistic exploitation of the human resource base by means of a wide variety of strategies. Non-Gypsies form the clientele; no similar economic relationship is sanctioned among the Rom. This adaptation is unusually stable in its overall relationship to non-Gypsy society, although the specific strategies utilized are readily accommodated to Regional differences and changing times. This very flexibility is highly valued by the Rom. The principal trades the Rom have engaged in over the years have alternated between women's fortune-telling and the men's sales and service activities. Today fortune-telling is the primary subsistence activity and influences population distribution and social relations. Whenever possible, the Rom try to operate as independent entrepreneurs, thus avoiding the proletarianization of their labor.

Industrial Arts. As independent traveling traders and service providers the Rom engaged little in primary productive activities or manufacturing. They were everywhere dependent on the surrounding population for their subsistence. In spite of increased sedentism, the only relationship the Rom have to industry is by means of semiskilled repair trades, formerly as copper- and tinsmiths, today as auto-body workers, electroplaters, metal burnishers, and so on.

Trade. Rom have always been alert to opportunities to engage in buying, selling, or trading whatever goods seem to be in demand at any particular time. Shrewd tradesmanship is part of the self-definition of a Gypsy. Men generally deal in larger merchandise, formerly horses, today cars and trailers; women tell fortunes or sell smaller items, such as decorative objects; and children engage in occasional productive activities such as shining shoes or hawking flowers on the streets.

Division of Labor. Sexual dichotomy among the Rom extends to types of work that are considered proper for men and women. Fortune-telling is women's work par excellence, although it's the men who control and protect the territory. Men's work is more variable, but at any particular time and place there is a range of pursuits that are considered properly "Gypsy." By the same token there are jobs, such as plumbing, that contravene the group's pollution taboos and that a Rom should not perform.

Land Tenure. There is no traditional form of land tenure because there is no traditional attachment to land. Fortune-telling locations and the rights to the local clientele are often bought and sold as businesses, however. Today, real estate also may be purchased either as an investment or as a base for service operations.

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