Call for papers 2020

Call for Papers

MARTOR 25/2020


Guest Editors:

Cătălina Tesăr (National Museum of the Romanian Peasant)

Ana Chirițoiu (Central European University)

Publication date: Autumn 2020

Deadline for abstract submissions: 20th May 2019.

The Museum of the Romanian Peasant is seeking contributions for its annual journal Martor 25/2020, on the topic of Marriage-making among Roma in Central and Eastern Europe: Practices, Meanings, Economies. Martor is a peer-reviewed academic journal, established in 1996, indexed by EBSCO, Index Copernicus, CEEOL, AIO, and MLA International Bibliography, with a focus on cultural and visual anthropology, ethnology and museology.

In Central and Eastern Europe and in the territories of their migration, the marriages of Roma and their ritual elaboration are often a source of concern for policy makers and an occasion of astonishment for non-Roma publics. Either because these alliances are concluded by arrangement, as opposed to modern ‘free-choice’ love matches, or because they are conducted between minors, or simply because of the wealth and gold displayed at weddings, Roma marriages remain controversial. Moreover given that the Roma don’t often speak about themselves publicly, and journalistic depictions of the phenomenon rarely go beyond sensationalism, Roma marital practices remain poorly understood. In this context, we believe that ethnographic and historical research on marriage-making among Roma originating in Eastern Europe and living here or beyond it could illuminate questions as about the persistence of culturally elaborated practices subsumed under the label of ‘marriage’ despite attempts at national and EU levels to regulate these practices and bring them in line with the European institution of marriage.

If in European Gadze (non-Roma) societies marriage fell under the control of the state and of the Church long ago, Roma ‘marriages’ remained largely outside the sway of the state. However, that does not make them less of an institution–in effect it makes them even more so, seeing how vernacular ‘marriage’ practices among Roma are paramount to the organisation of gender hierarchies and political relations, and to the maintenance and reproduction of the social order and cultural distinctiveness of various Roma populations. Illustratively Roma ‘marriages’ involve extended families, and subsume practices as diverse as betrothals, elopements, ‘payments’ and conspicuous wedding ceremonies. Reckoning with the fact that Roma ‘marriages’ are at variance with the common definition of ‘marriage’ as the state- (and church-)sanctioned, love-based union of two people, we ask: How do Roma conceive of the institution of marriage? What kind of meanings do they endow it with, and how does it articulate with other social and cultural tropes in the maintenance of the social order? 

At odds with the interest paid to Roma ‘marriages’ by mass media and policy makers, anthropologists sidelined the idiom of marriage in their studies, and have treated the topic as a handmaiden of other units of analysis, such as gender and personhood, economies of luck, respect for the dead, or positionality vis-a-vis non-Roma. These approaches reflect a broader tendency in contemporary anthropological studies to bypass the topic of marriage, once critical to anthropological thinking, or at best to subordinate it to other, purportedly broader, scopes of analysis.

This special issue proposes to restore Roma ‘marriages’ to the centre of analysis, keeping in line with their centrality in our interlocutors’ lives. Indeed, many ethnographies, as well as our own field practice, indicate that it is through marital ties that the Roma achieve full personhood; moreover, beyond power relations and affective practices inside the couple, marital unions are an arena for the expression of the cultural values of the whole social group. If for the Roma marital alliances are not primarily a consecration of love, but rather a process of cohabitation, of achieving affection, goods, social standing, and of kinning between extended families, how does this process unfold? What are the strategies, ceremonials, and daily practices that constitute and maintain a marital union, what imaginaries engulf it, what economies are embedded in it, and what group relations does it mobilize? Furthermore, what does comparative historical analysis contribute to the understanding of current marital practices among Roma populations?

We therefore invite papers that take marital practices as their core unit of analysis, and explore what marital alliances are and do for Roma societies, by tracking what they entail, how they shape Roma sociality, how they contribute to social reproduction, and how they changed across time.

Contributions can consider, but are not restricted to, the following questions:

  • What does it mean to be ‘married’? What does a marital union entail, in terms of behavior, performance, and practice?
  • How are alliances conducted, from the initial talks through ceremonies, and beyond them?
  • How many people take part in Roma marital unions? What is the relation between families and the married couple?
  • What is the relation between the production of children, household and marital unions?
  • What are the various modes of getting married? How do betrothals, elopements, exchanges, ‘payments’, and ‘love-marriages’ occur?
  • Who gets matched to whom? Who chooses whom? And what criteria are there for choosing a spouse?
  • What is the relation between marital union, economy, and the person? Is the marital union solely a vehicle for the social reproduction of the group, or is it an arena of personal self-fulfillment?
  • What is the relation between the concept of ‘family’ and ‘marriage’ among Roma people?
  • When and how does intermarriage and respectively endogamy occur?
  • How did the historical mobility of the Roma shape the institution of marriage and how do contemporary migration practices affect marriage-making among the Roma
  • How can social history illuminate understandings of current marital practices?

We call for ethnographically-grounded and/or historically-informed articles which engage with Roma ‘marriages’ across various groups, regions, and periods in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Submissions will be in either English or French and will count between 7-10,000 words. Please follow the guidelines for authors of the Martor journal:

Prior to contributing their submission, authors are asked to submit an abstract of 300 words max to 

The deadline for abstract submissions is 20th May 2019.

The authors of selected contributions will be notified by 1st June 2019.

The deadline for article submissions is 15th November 2019.

In case the editors secure the necessary funding, the contributors will be invited to take part in a one-day workshop in Bucharest, at the beginning of 2020.

Proposals, manuscripts, and other editorial correspondence should be sent to the e-mail addresses indicated above.