Transnational reproductive strategies. An analysis of the fertility histories of Romanian Roma women in Spain.
Juan F. Gamella, Giuseppe Beluschi Fabeni, Elisabeth Gómez Oehler & Vasile Muntean
University of Granada
The corpus of studies on Romani migration has increased quickly in recent decades, but little attention has been paid to the role of family and kinship networks. Kinship is pivotal in the social organization of Romani communities, a powerful indicator of social differentiation and a central factor in understanding the mobilization of migration phenomena. Our data were collected through ethnographic research among a network of Romani households residing in Granada, Spain, which are linked to a wider network of households that is spread over several other countries. Drawing on the experiences of a Romani couple and their extended family from Banat, we highlight how Roma are experiencing a demographic transition towards a reduction in the number of children per couple. Crucially, we show how the younger generations wish to have fewer children and how they are steered in that direction by their elders. The need to have male children to ensure the continuity of a lineage, however, might interfere with this transition. As a result, while the tendency towards smaller families is common across Europe, the speed at which the transition is occurring among Roma differs from that of the majority European population. This difference, we argue, still makes Romani family networks larger than those of the majority population and is often at the root of cultural misunderstandings, particularly around access to birth control measures. Furthermore, nationalists and populists in countries heading towards a demographic decline, draw on this difference to paint the Roma as a threat.