An Ethnography of Outsmarting in a Southern Romanian Mahala

Event: Research group

Location: Zoom

24 March 2022, 17.00-19.00 (Bucharest time)

Ana CHIRIȚOIU, PhD, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Central European University, Vienna; Editor, Anthropology Matters Journal

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Meeting ID: 870 6535 3864
Passcode: 247142


Abstract: In this paper, I analyse the practices that the Rom Čor describe as ‘outsmarting’ beyond the explanations of economic necessity and methodological moralism that typically frame them. I argue that outsmarting is driven by a relational logic, whereby the Rom seek not only to fend for themselves but also to demonstrate their ‘capability’ and to pursue good lives and possibly virtue. Moving beyond the criminalization of theft and its interpretation as an antisocial practice, I show that, by enacting the stigma projected onto them by wider society, outsmarting enables the Rom Čor to assert their belonging to the social body by virtue of what they call their ‘talent’ to outsmart others. Second, I analyse outsmarting as an occupation, a type of labor as it were, that the Rom Čor designate as ‘going to the village’ (Rom. Ʒan and-o gav), and the imaginaries of mobility, ‘capability,’ ‘risk,’ and ‘luck’ that qualify this practice. The paper proposes a dialectical understanding of outsmarting as a practice that not only challenges but also reproduces the existing inequalities between the Rom and the surrounding majorities.

This event is organized within the research group The Group for Anthropological Research and Debates (GARD) hosted by NEC.