Romani Studies

The moving-permit custom of the Finnish Roma

Romani Studies (2015), 25, (2), 151–166.

Abstract

The Finnish Roma operate an internal control system that prevents further conflicts between feuding families. This system is based on avoidance of inappropriate behaviour, people and places, and as such, define the everyday lives of Finnish Roma. Since Finnish Roma value each other firstly by family reputation and history, some families, and hence some individuals, are considered ‘bad’ and therefore preferably avoided. The moving-permit custom acts as an instrument for the community to prevent alleged ‘bad’ families from moving too close to them, and from damaging their relations with their majority neighbours. In fact, the moving-permit system enables Roma to live further away from other Finnish Roma and therefore gives them more freedom to live by the community’s all-encompassing cleanliness rules and morals, dictated by the principle of avoidance. Although the moving-permit custom is unanimously considered inevitable for the communities’ well-being, it can also hamper the possibility of upward socio-economic mobility for those with questionable family histories.

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BERLIN, JENNI