Fire in the dark : telling gypsiness in North East England
Taking as a starting point the interactions of people from different cultural
backgrounds (Gypsies and non-Gypsies) this thesis examines the participants'
different ways of being in the world and what this means for their ability to
communicate and plan effectively together.
Split into three sections the thesis uses an organising metaphor of a fire burning in the
darkness in a wasteland.
The first section - the Wasteland - situates the work in relation to a number of
theoretical frames; Gypsy studies, anthropological work on identity and ethnicity,
notions of intersubjectivity developed by phenomenologists and recent work
examining the role of tropes in anthropology and understandings of culture. This
section also gives the work a methodological frame looking especially at the nature of
the fieldwork experience and the ethical issues involved in representing people.
Finally this section locates the work in a geo-historical context, the place and space of
Teesside, North East England.
The second section - the Fire - examines the role of stories in teaching a sense of
Gypsiness. Looking specifically at the stories Gypsies tell and their relationship to
ideas and experiences of `family' the ethnographic thrust of this section is to develop
a clear sense of the social aesthetic standards in operation in Gypsy story telling. This
is then extended to show how such social aesthetic standards remain in operation in
the everyday actions and interactions of Gypsies. Illuminating these social aesthetic
standards gives a clear point from which to start comparing Gypsy styles of
interaction with those of the non-Gypsy world.
The third and final section - the Dark - places the ethnography of the previous section
in the wider context of the non-Gypsy world. This then provides the grounds from
which to conduct a detailed examination and comparison of the different styles of
interaction at work when Gypsies and non-Gypsies come together.
Some conclusions are drawn as to the significance of understanding different styles of
being in the world and the implications such understandings have for guiding
planning and policy work. The thesis finishes with a suggestion of the significance of
the work and conclusions drawn as regards anthropology in general.