Between Two Fires

Between Two Fires

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Since Tsarist times, Roma in Russia (known to others as Gypsies) have been portrayed as rebels, isolated from society and excluded from mainstream history. In Soviet times, Russians harboured two opposing views of Roma, exalting Romani theatre and song but believing Gypsies in the street to be liars and thieves. Alaina Lemon's Between Two Fires examines how Roma themselves have negotiated such dualities, in both everyday interactions and in stage performances. Lemon's ethnographic study is based on extensive fieldwork in Russia during the 1990s, focusing on Moscow Romani Theatre actors as well as Romani traders and metalworkers. Drawing from interviews, observation, archival work, literature, and media, Lemon analyses the role of performance and theatricality in Romani social life and memory. Racial and social prejudice against Gypsies runs so deep in part because of the very ways their stage performances have been culturally framed and positioned, allowing Gypsies to be typecast as qnaturalq performers. Performance may at times empower Roma, but it more often reinforces stereotypes, keeping them at the margins of Russian economic and political life. Lemon argues that performance is integral to Romani life not only in these ways, which define what it means to be Romani in Russia as opposed to somewhere else, but also in the ways it structures Romani memory of the Soviet past. In addition to her focus on Romani performance and memory, Lemon discusses racial categories, gender, class, and the economic changes in post-Soviet Russia. Her complex portrait of this minority will serve as a corrective to simplistic and romantic views of Roma. One of few ethnographies of East European Roma available in English, Between Two Fires will be welcomed by anthropologists, sociologists, specialists in Russian and post-Soviet studies, performance theorists, and those with an interest in Romani culture.In the autumn of 1991, I was interviewing her cousin about the evacuation of the Romani Theater from Moscow during World War II, when the telephone ... How much does a Ford Escort cost? ... The men would either be outdoors in welding suits, driving commissioned repair work back to clients, or getting new orders.

Title:Between Two Fires
Author:Alaina Lemon
Publisher:Duke University Press - 2000-07-20


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