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2014 | 7 | 39-51

Article title

Romni, rom a nauka


Title variants

Rromni, Rrom thaj o ʒantripen

Languages of publication



Literature published by experts in Romani studies contains contradictory state¬ments when it comes to exploring the nature of the Romani family: some authors claim that the Romani family is a patriarchal formation; others maintain that it is a matriarchal one. I am convinced that these (apparently) contradictory facts can be explained for example with help of the concept of cultural themes and counter-themes, as defined by Morris Opler. Opler criticises configurationism, which claims that every culture is dominated by a certain principal pattern that integrates it and defines its unique direction. In his criticism, he draws upon the pre-supposition that there is not one exclusive do¬minant organisational principle in a culture determining its overall character, but a whole series of mutually interconnected norms and regulations – cultural themes, which control and determine the behaviour of the community’s members. In order to prevent a one-sided deflection of a cultural system caused by pre-dominance of a certain theme, some themes are balanced by their counter-themes which function as their restrictive factors. And it is the interplay of the theme and counter-theme that makes a culture balanced; the intrinsic organisation of the culture is given by their mutual relation and equilibrium. The depicted scheme of interpretation can be employed to explain the afore-men¬tioned facts concerning the position of men and women in the traditional Romani culture. In this culture, the cultural theme of male dominance is balanced by the counter-theme of a strong position of the mother (and possibly by the institute of phuri daj) which prevents the theme of male dominance from becoming too accen¬tuated and thus dangerous for the equilibrium and integrity of the given culture. So, the position of the mother weakens the influence of male dominance and ensures that this dominance does not prevail in the traditional Romani culture as a unique element. Their interconnection and ”harmony” thus preserve the integrity of the system of the traditional Romani culture and contribute to its dynamic balance. The presented explanation also illuminates why one comes across contradictory statements in literature thematising the position of men and women in the traditio¬nal Romani culture. It shows that the contradiction is not to be considered a mista¬ke, but that it indicates the existence of actual phenomena, both of which can be explored but which only make sense when their correlation is taken into account and when a suitable interpretative tool is employed.








Physical description


  • Katedra Antropologie, University of West Bohemia, Univerzitni 8, 306 14 Pilsen, CZECH REPUBLIC


Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

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