The Renaissance of Romani Re-presentation
Opinion and consensus
Doxa and episteme
Doxa and episteme
Similar to terminologies, artefacts made by the ancestral Romani people have not survived into the modern period, or not recognisably so, at least. They became part of the doxa of modern conceptions of arts, handicrafts, and what constitutes cultural artefacts.
Doxa explains how, as conceptions and perceptions shift, 'opinions' and 'consensus' becomes 'knowledge' and 'the truth', in terms of what is, or is not, considered as legitimate representation of self through cultural expressions.
Plato's original theorem (in his Republic) defends an opposition between these two points on a continuum, whilst recognising that doxa can be an intermediary between ignorance (ágnoia) and knowledge (episteme). When perceiving that an artefact - such as a painted or decorated waggon or narrow-boat - could also be cultural expression, the opinion that this is so comes into being, albeit contingent upon categorisation as, for example, folk handicraft rather than high art. Doxa is established on the way to episteme1.
Byzantine doxa regarding the ancestors of modern Romani people begins immediately upon their appearance in the Palace of the Basileios, the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos in Constantinople.
Opinion as to who these people were was both divisive and contradictory: Samarians (Samaritans) from the Acts of the Apostles or 'Egyptians' from the Book of Exodus? Associated with these opinions was an expectation of how, as 'Samaritans' or 'Egyptians', they would behave, performing their identities. As followers of Simon Magus, or 'Egyptians', they were expected to practice fortune telling, bear leading, sorcery, magic, charm selling, divination, and cartomancy (from early 15th century, using tarot cards). From Ottoman times (post-1350CE in Anatolia), music and dance for public consumption became a critical part of Romani, or Çingneler (Turkish, plural for 'Romani') identity2. This later association between 'Gypsies' and performance, music, and dance is still prevalent today, though not originally part of 'Egyptian' identity in Byzantium.
In terms of artefacts that the 'Egyptians', later 'Gypsies' used whilst performing these roles, such as tarot cards, drums, pipes, beaters, amulets, charms, icons, astrological charts, polished bowls (for water divining and cloud reading), or more practical items (decorated water pitchers, tents, waggons), nothing immediately identifiable remains. Even costume – although the 'Egyptians' were depicted wearing recognisably Byzantine clothing, in European art, for centuries after the fall of Byzantium to the Ottomans in May 1453CE.
Which is not to say that nothing remains, merely that nothing has been identified as pertaining to Romani production from previous eras, until we reach the 19th century. Archival research would be required to extensively comb collections in European museums and archives to identify, through scholarly and scientific processes used in archaeology, anthropology, ethnology, historiography, philology and 'excavate' or 'unearth' previously unidentified artefacts from Romani communities and histories.
1 See Rosengren, Mats, 2005, “On being downstream”, in M. Rosengren [ed.], The past's presence – essays on the historicity of philosophical thought, Stockholm: Södertörn Philosophical Studies 3
2 The Turkish terms used during the Ottoman period were Çingeneler and Kıpti, the former meaning 'Gypsy' but with significant pejorative associations, the latter literally meaning 'Copt', i.e., 'Egyptian'. Modern Turkish usage is Romanlar in the plural, and Roman in the singular, bringing the description back to the original term, Romitoi or 'sons of the Romans'.