Cover image for Gypsies in Madrid : sex, gender and the performance of identity
Gypsies in Madrid : sex, gender and the performance of identity
Gay y Blasco, Paloma.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Berg, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 198 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
Reading Level:
1410 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DX251 .G39 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Throughout the twentieth century, Spanish people have deployed conflicting sexual moralities in their struggle for political supremacy within the state. The Spanish Gypsies or Gitanos, who live at the very bottom of the Spanish socio-economic scale, have appropriated this concern with gender morality and, in the process, have reinvented themselves as the only honourable Spaniards. Although the Gitano gender ideology has a distinctively Spanish flavour, it revolves around a conceptualization of the female body that is radically different from that of other Spaniards.The subtle exploration of these acts of cultural invention is one of the original features of this important new ethnography. Another even more striking aspect of the work is the author's vision of the 'impermanent' nature of the Gitano social order and the absence of any representation of 'community' or 'society'. Unlike their non-Gypsy neighbours, Gitanos do not use concepts of tradition, territory or social harmony as bases for their singularity. Instead, they focus on the evaluation of personal moral performances in the present. In a cultural universe where all activities are markers of shared identity, and where personhood is always sexed, men and women continually enact the superiority of Gypsies over non-Gypsies. Through dress, manner and the management of emations, or at wedding rituals where the virginity of young brides is put to the test, the body works as the site of these processes.

Author Notes

Paloma Gay y Blasco University of St Andrews

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Although the Gitanos of Spain are one of the better studied Gypsy groups, most previous work in English is either dated, specialized on flamenco performers, and/or limited to Andalusia. Gypsies in Madrid is a study of a Gitano community on the outskirts of Madrid where Gay y Blasco (Queen's Univ. of Belfast) conducted ethnographic research for 15 months. Her basic question was how Gitanos maintain such especially strong ethnic boundaries and shared identity without the usual reference to territoriality or shared history, and without internal unity or social cohesiveness. She argues effectively that this is accomplished through a sense of moral superiority based on upholding a series of gender-specific moral rules. Gay y Blasco illustrates her argument by exposition of gender relations, wedding customs, feuding practices, and concepts regarding the human body. Both description and analysis ring true. Moreover, this is a significant contribution to the understanding not only of other Gypsies but of the nature of ethnicity in general. It provides particularly good comparison with Michael Stewart's work (The Time of the Gypsies, CH, Jan'98) in Hungary. Although Gay y Blasco's study is a revision of her doctoral dissertation, it is very readable, with few of the usual shortcomings of that genre. All levels. W. G. Lockwood; University of Michigan

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
Part I Gypsies in Contemporary Spainp. 2
1 Introductionp. 3
Notesp. 17
2 Those Awkward Spaniardsp. 21
Notesp. 37
3 A Divided Neighbourhood: the Problem of Gitano Shared Identityp. 39
Notesp. 57
Part II The Performance of Morality: Dual Moral Standardsp. 62
Notesp. 66
4 Desire, Control and Dual Moral Standardsp. 67
Notesp. 84
5 The Female Body and Gendered Moralitiesp. 87
Notesp. 108
6 The Politics of the Married Couplep. 111
Notesp. 130
Part III The Performance of Morality: Patrilinearity, Conflict and Masculinityp. 134
Notesp. 137
7 Personhood and Kinship Linksp. 139
Notesp. 152
8 Men in the Face of Conflictp. 155
Notesp. 171
9 Conclusionp. 173
Notesp. 180
Referencesp. 183
Indexp. 191