The project aims to address this lacuna in European historiography by conducting an extensive study of the history of the Roma community in 20th century in Romania focusing on collecting, preserving and interpreting oral narratives of the Roma population. The principal goal of the project is to contribute to knowledge on the community’s past which is in danger of disappearing with little or no trace. Among the long-term effects of such an approach is a provision of an empowering instrument for the community, fundamental texts for a possible Roma history to be taught in elementary schools in Romania, generating useful tools to educate both Roma and Romanian (or European) children and adults. Thus, one of the significant outcomes of the project will be the provision of translations in Romani language for the most important books/articles issued out of our project.
Under the conditions in which all documents about Roma that are available in the archives are about them, and never by them, the goal of the project is of recovering and (re)constructing a history of a community through oral history testimonies. For this, our Romanian-Icelandic team will adopt a grass-root approach, in which collecting oral histories of Roma people will be supported and paralleled by research of archival documentation, theoretical explorations and interpretation of the multifaceted representations of the Roma within contemporary European societies. To appreciate the complexity of such an issue, the project will adopt an interdisciplinary approach, combining historical research with anthropology and ethnology, language and media studies.
The project will answer questions on i.a. significant events and trajectories of the past as remembered by the Roma community? It will address historiographical problems associated with transforming oral testaments in to written documentation: Is the classical time-space historical framework structured in oral narratives of the past adaptable to traditional historiography? How do central concepts such as written vs. orality, ethnicity, memory, nation, citizenship figure within the community and how can alternative perceptions be reflected in historical scholarship? It will address questions as to the nature of the cultural heritage of the Roma community and explore the ways (in)tangible cultural heritage, such as traditions (music, crafts, dance, food), can empower the Roma community? The role of “traditions” in the present and explorations of how reference to old ways has implications for their status in the present and how collectives could capitalize economically, symbolically, socially, politically etc. on their cultural heritage, in order "to strengthen capacity and human resources development."