Romani Studies

Ritual impurity and kinship in a Gypsy osada in eastern Slovakia

Romani Studies (2005), 15, (1), 1–29.

Abstract

The article deals with the classification of the family formations in Gypsy osadas in eastern Slovakia. Three basic types of kin group, which differ in extent, structure and function, can be distinguished in Gypsy osadas. The first group is the nuclear family, which includes two to three generations, consisting of parents and their children. This group usually maintains a common household. The second type of family described in the article we call 'complex family'. It is defined as a group consisting of nuclear families of parents together with nuclear families of their adult sons. The complex family is usually patrilinear and the prevailing pattern of post-marital residency is patrilocality. The last and the largest kin group, the fajta, is a kind of lineage usually maintained in patrilinear descent. It is the largest social group in the Gypsy osada.

The coherence and integrity of the fajta is maintained by a practice of exchanging women, either between different complex families in the same fajta or between complex families in different fajtas (which usually originates by the splitting up of one fajta). This pattern of exchanging women is repeated for generations and establishes important alliances between complex families. All social contacts are limited to the members of the same fajta or to the members of the fajta linked by the established alliances. The fajtas are not static, and re-grouping based on marital alliances is constant.

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Author details

Budilová, Lenka

Jakoubek, Marek