It seems to be a commonplace assumption that the misery of Roma who live amidst our societies is a direct consequence of their self-chosen “freedom” that stands against the prevailing consensus in the so-called West. Now, as this very consensus gets uncovered as one of order, control, and disciplining aimed at breeding the fiction of western hegemony, the Roma model of life—arrested through social and aesthetic prejudice—might offer knowledge on how a new possibility might emerge from the current condition of emergency. Artist and researcher Daniel Baker and theorist Ethel Brooks examine what Roma thought has to offer today if it manages to migrate from the margins to central societal discourses on politics, economics, and aesthetics. The discussion on issues such as nomadic sensitivity, extraterritoriality, camp, survival, and collectivity—underlined by the principles of the makeshift and of contingency—get punctuated by two instances of divinatory dialogue: a palm reading by Brooks and a Tarot card reading by Baker. These marginal “fortune-telling” acts are stereotyped as primitive practices of those who have been circumvented by modernity, yet they resonate in many established western structures ranging from commerce to politics to culture and art to religion. Whether taken seriously or not, these acts of divination signify particular modes of engagement and a potential performative departure to embrace “Othered” knowledges in imagining alternate kinds of prospects for being together.
Daniel Baker/ Maria Hlavajova
Hello Ethel, I found out that you and Daniel Baker are giving a talk titled “A Roma Model The Cosmopolitan Other”. I think the description of the talk and this event are very problematic. I think it is for many reasons problematic. For example rather than tackle the oppression of Roma in Europe, I feel it idealizes a distorted, whitewashed image of Romani existence. This whole discourse sidesteps the issues of lived oppression, racism, and exclusion, and instead idealizes “nomadic sensitivity, extraterritoriality, camp, survival, and collectivity”. To make matters worse, you are going to perform what they call “divinatory dialogue”: you will hold a “palm reading” session and Baker will do “Tarot card reading”. I am a Romni and a activist and just looking at it makes me feel sick. This is unbelievable.
AND THE PERFORMANCE: Former West: Documents, Constellations, Prospects Daniel Baker and Ethel Brooks: A Roma Model/ The Cosmopolitan Other (59:26 min.)