Kinsmen into strangers, or taking Meyer Fortes for a spin


Datum: måndag 25 september 2023

Tid: 13.00 – 14.30

Plats: B600

Forskarseminarium med Ana Chiritoiu från Uppsala Universitet


‘It’s only abroad that you find out who your real kin is,’ my young Roma friend Felicia confided to me after her attempt to claim political asylum in Canada failed and she returned home to Romania. Her costly journey produced neither the asylum papers she had applied for, nor the financial gains she had hoped to make by begging (manglimos). Instead, she incurred a large debt, miscarried without any access to medical assistance, and became disabused of the idea of kinship solidarity. In this paper, I compare my friend’s expectations from kinship to the other types of solidarity that framed her migration to Canada, namely humanitarianism and compassion. While the latter are purportedly driven by notions of equality and justice, and kinship is, famously, ‘the axiom of amity,’ (Fortes 1969), the southern Romanian Roma with whom I conducted my research would frequently reduce all three relations to the common denominator ‘pity/mercy’ (milă), which has the merit of bringing their hierarchical undertones out in the open. Thus, using Felicia’s narrative of migration for asylum and/or street-work as a wider frame of reference, in this paper I revisit the notion of kinship put forth by Meyer Fortes and argue that, beyond transactions or sentiments, kinship should be understood as a dialectic of amity and enmity structured by hierarchies. 



Ana Chiritoiu is a social anthropologist working at the intersection of legal, moral, and political anthropology. She has been conducting research with Roma in Eastern Europe for over a decade now, both as an academic and as an engaged researcher. She is interested in how the social exclusion of Roma reflects onto the Roma’s own notions and practices of kinship, social order, exchange, and moral norms. These topics inform an envisaged book, titled 'Making Virtue Out of Necessity In a Romanian Mahala.'

Her latest article "Living in a world of others: A politics of grace and favors in a Romanian mahala" is available online.