Circulating objects of domesticity between home and migration country. The case of Romanian Roma settled in France.
University of Paris-Ouest Nanterre
This paper proposes an understanding of contemporary Romanian Gypsy migration to France through the lens of material culture. It places Roma mobility within the historical context of the post-socialist political and economical transition. Communism was characterised, among other things, by closure of the borders and shortage of goods. When borders were opened, people’s imaginaries about their crossing revolved around ideas of Western Europe as a realm of commodities and affluence. Drawing on long term ethnographic fieldwork with Roma families settled in the Parisian suburbs and traveling to their home village frequently, I investigate how commodities intimate people’s conceptions of domesticity. I take a close look at the objects carried in the trunks of the minivans which take people from one country to the other. For migrants, feeling at home abroad relies greatly on meaningful items which fill up new places and shed an affective dimension on them. Objects brought to Romania from abroad contribute to status competitions objectified in the dimensions of one’s house. The circulation of individuals, commodities and information leads to the development of a culture of migration among those who experienced life abroad. This culture of migration is expressed by forms of conspicuous consumption related to housing practices and house-building processes. The domestic sphere is shaped by the consumption of western commodities, which are reinterpreted and invested with new social meanings. Analysing the relationships between Roma migrants and their material world appears as the best way to depict the social history of contemporary migrations as lived since 1989.