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Counterculture of Gypsies

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1540 words Published: 8th Sep 2017

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A counterculture is a subculture that rejects the major values of the larger society, and replaces them with a new set of cultural patterns (Thomas). The Gypsies are just one example of a counterculture. Gypsies generally rejected the bourgeois values; They rejected private property, materialism, and moral values. Gypsies had no long-lasting residency and survived on little material wealth. The Gypsies pursued detached lives that included use of drugs, alcohol, and they also believed in open sexual freedom. They lived merely for the arts and bliss (Mtholyoke.edu). In the nineteenth century the bohemian gypsies became recognized for representing a counterculture of artists, musicians, poets and writers (Turman). The history of the gypsies persisted to be unknown for years. A huge reason for the uncertainty of this culture was because of their lack of written linguistic, and their lack of understanding of their origin. The name “Gypsy” was derived from Egypt, which was where they commonly claimed to originate from. It was finally revealed that the Romani language was closely correlated to dialects of the Indian language (Watkins). The Gypsies, or Romani people originated in Northern India and migrated into the Middle East and eventually spread across Europe (scottishgypsies.co.uk).

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The sociological perspective is the viewing of a groups behavior in a systemic way, rather than depending on common-sense explanations (Thomas 4). The three main sociological perspectives are the functionalist perspective, the interactionist perspective, and the conflict perspective. The functionalist perspective views society as a set of interrelated parts that work together to produce a stable social system (Thomas 14). Using the functionalist perspective, it can be perceived that the gypsies detached, private lives and rebellion against the bourgeois values identifies the culture as a dysfunction. If the gypsies norms were labeled as dysfunctional, it would mean that they have a negative consequence on the stability of the social system (Thomas 14). The interactionist perspective focuses solely on how individuals interact with one another in society and how individuals attach meanings to their actions (Thomas 17). Using the interactionist perspective, sociologists look at certain aspects such as marriage rituals and child development. The gypsies after marriage are expected to live with the parents of the husband for at least a year and are expected to have three or four children; it is very unusual for a couple to have only two children. Once they move in, the “bori” or wife, takes on most of the household tasks. Once the children arrive, the women are in charge of child care, but it is not strange for them to turn to relatives for assistance. Men and women are both affectionate towards children and the children are brought up in loving environments. Children begin to help their parents at a young age. They begin to train in whatever the family chooses for their kids to pursue whether it be singing, dancing, or woodwork. Girls learn household tasks and they marry by the time they reach mid-teens (Christobel). The conflict perspective focuses on the forces in society that promote competition and change. Conflict sociologist’s research includes decision-making in the family and relationships among racial groups (Thomas 16). Using the conflict perspective, sociologists will see that the Gypsies are observed by outsiders as coming from a low social status and they are categorized as different for their carefree lifestyle. Sociological imagination is the ability to see the connection between the larger world and our personal lives (Thomas 5). Due to the gypsies “different lifestyle” and their practices not being accepted, they focused a lot of their attention on the arts. The original collection of the theater was moralistic and was created by Gypsies (Christobel). The Gypsies also are well known for their fortune-telling, which was an important part of their belief. Gypsy women sold fortunes by reading palms and tarot cards (Christobel). The Roma gypsies have impacted American culture directly with their mysticism and creative abilities. The Gypsies are also most well-known for their musical contributions. The Gypsies have contributed to current American music, and are also accredited for their creation of the Flamenco, in Spain. Possibly one of the best jazz guitarists, Django Rheinhardt, who is a renowned Gypsy, also contributed to American culture (Heimlich). The gypsies have also influenced fashion in this generation. Today there are bohemian trends or “boho,” which are rustic and carefree.

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to see one’s own culture and group as superior (Thomas 35). If you have ever heard the saying when someone is to con another person, they “gyp” them, this is derived from the stereotype created by non-Gypsies. This saying is not accurate because the Gypsies generally had a lower crime rate than other ethnicities (Heimlich). In 1939 through 1945 there was the genocide of the Roma gypsies, which was when the Nazis decided that the Gypsies were “racially inferior.” The Nazis were against those who lived the gypsy lifestyle. The Nazis established these people as culturally “undesirable” and as a result, they mistreated them. The Nazi’s had no way to categorize and determine gypsies from a “desirable” individual, so they turned to racial hygiene and began to try and figure who the gypsies were, based on physical appearance. It was estimated that approximately 90 percent of all of the Roma in Germany, had “contaminated blood,” meaning they were mixed and were carriers of “degenerate” blood and unlawful characteristics (Ushmm.org). The Germans in this time period believed any other culture or race other than pure Germans could possibly pose as a threat to society. As a result, the Nazi Germans exterminated nearly one million Gypsies. Discrimination is still an issue today for Gypsies, along with marginalization. The European Gypsies today are still without sufficient medical aid and they do not receive the same job opportunities. They are deprived from certain privileges due to their culture and ethnic background (Padden).

Cultural Relativism is the belief that cultures should be judged on their own standard rather than applying the standards of another culture (Thomas 36). There are the Romungro, The Boyash, and the Roma Gypsies all of which have different locations in Hungary and their standards vary based on their settlement. The Romungro are Gypsies that have lost their language and associate with middle class in society. These Gypsies have higher education expectations, but are still proud of their gypsy origin. The Boyash Gypsies are despised by the Roma Gypsies, due to their integration. They are nonviolent and hard-working. Music, dancing, and language remain important elements in the Boyash Gypsies culture. The Romas are the “real Gypsies.” They have continued to save their traditional culture which include their language, clothing, music, and dancing (Katalin, Forray R.;Beck Zoltán). All of these subcultures of gypsies have continued to keep the certain values of their culture and not completely conform to the standards of the of a larger culture. Today you can still find Roma Gypsies who continue to practice their cultural beliefs and standards in a society with different expected norms.

I feel as if in today’s society, the original Roma Gypsies would still be considered a counterculture. Despite having lost most of their original Romani language, they still preserve cultural identity and selectiveness (Heimlich). Their culture differs too much from today’s social norms and would still be considered “different” or “odd.” After lots of research, I have discovered that there are many Gypsy subcultures that have adapted to certain norms and that do not follow the Roma Gypsy standards completely. I feel as if some of the Gypsy subcultures would be accepted in today’s society.


Christobel, Maya. The-Gypsy-Life.com. 19 May 2015. Web. 10 March 2017.

Heimlich, Evan. Everyculture.com. 26 February 2015. Web. 10 March 2017.

Katalin, Forray R.;Beck Zoltán. Gypsy Studies. University of Pécs, 2008. Book. 10 March 2017.

Mtholyoke.edu. n.d. Web. 10 March 2017.

Padden, Kathy. Todayifoundout.com. 4 June 2014. Web. 10 March 2017.

scottishgypsies.co.uk. 2004. Web. 10 March 2017.

Thomas, W. LaVerne. “Sociology: The Study of Human Relationships.” Austin: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2003. 39. Textbook.

Turman, Karen. “BOHEMIAN ARTISTS AND “REAL BOHEMIANS”. .” 2015. infona.pl. Journal. 10 March 2017.

Ushmm.org. 2017. Web. 10 March 2017.

Watkins, James A. Owlcation.com. 27 December 2016. Web. 10 March 2017.


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