The Time of the Gypsies

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The Time of the Gypsies

By Michael Stewart
Westview Press, 1997
302 pp. $28.00

Nearly every poll taken in Eastern Europe shows Gypsies to be the most mistrusted, even loathed, members of society, no matter the country. The Nazis exterminated 500,000 Gypsies in an attempt to "eliminate their 'degenerate' and 'antisocial' way"; the communists attempted to assimilate them for largely the same reason. Today Gypsies face routine but increasing brutality from ordinary citizens. Constituting roughly five percent of the population in Eastern Europe, rather than the tiny fraction they account for in Western Europe, they are a consequential social group. Beginning in 1984, Stewart, an anthropologist trained at the London School of Economics, lived among Hungarian Vlach Gypsies for 15 months. As Stewart's mentor, Maurice Bloch, writes in the foreword, at one level this is "a study of how some of the most marginal and exploited people that exist can imagine themselves to be princes of the world." So is it a special angle from which to view the biases of mainstream Hungarian society.

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