Rom - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The Rom function on a band level with family elders and influential "big men" as the only type of leadership. Rom society is organized primarily on the basis of kinship, with sex, age, ability, wealth, and family membership used to rank individuals. It is patrifocal in that all important decisions are ultimately made by the adult males, although the advice of women may be considered. Age is generally accorded high respect, but ability may sometimes count for more. Women defer to their men. Wealth is seen as proof of ability and luck and is highly esteemed. Prestige is based on a combination of wealth, ability, and good conduct.

Political Organization. Lacking formai leadership, Rom political organization consists of loose federations, or shifting alliances between lineages, which generally are united by Marriage ties. Charismatic individuals, those who have become wealthy or who have influential friends among non-Gypsies, may for a while possess certain power to influence others; however, their power is generally nontransferable. At the death of a "big man," his sons do not necessarily inherit his status. Each has to earn his own status.

Social Control. Social control is ultimately in the hands of one's peers and elders who happen to be in a position to command respect at the particular time. Most of the time, social control consists of discussion and evaluation, gossip, ridicule, and similar informal pressure tactics. In more serious cases a divano, a gathering of friends, relatives, and available local elders, may be called first to discuss and attempt to solve the problem in order to avoid the expense and trouble of resorting to a Gypsy court. If this fails, the Kris, an ad hoc court of arbitration, is convened, generally by the party that feels it has been wronged. The judges are chosen from among available respected elders, who are felt to be objective and are expected not to favor one side over another. Sanctions may consist of monetary fines or, more rarely, formal ostracism. Charges of contravention of pollution taboos, more frequently used in the past, are among the strongest forms of Social control. A person or family labeled unclean, marime, is effectively banned from further contact with other Rom until cleared by the Kris. Non-Gypsy law enforcement is also called upon as an adjunct to internal forms of conflict resolution, albeit mostly for the harassment of enemies.

Conflict. Conflicts—which may begin with individual disagreements over division of earnings, disputes over Brideprice or daughters-in-law, or competition over fortune-telling territory—are often expressed on another level as disagreements between families or lineages. Patrilineally related individuals are expected to band together to defend the Family against outsiders. Women whose natal lineages are in conflict with those of their husbands are sometimes put in an awkward position of having to choose between them.

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