“THEY LOOK ME IN THE EYES AND I SMILE AND THEN WE KNOW”: The Interaction of Finnish Roma and East European Roma in Finland

Lidia Gripenberg

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandlingMonografi


This is an account of the interaction of Finnish Roma with East European Roma in Finland. I will argue that this interaction is strongly influenced by these peoples’ engagement with Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity and nationality. Within the frame of this study, Finnish Roma refers to Finnish Kale, a distinctive group somewhat similar to the sinti, a branch of the European Roma population who live mostly in German-speaking countries. Finnish Kale have settled in Finland for more than 500 years: they are Finnish citizens and speak Finnish in addition to a local dialect of Romani. The East European Roma in Finland include representatives of different Roma groups, with different self-appellations, who have recently migrated to Finland from former socialist states of Europe, mostly Bulgaria and Romania, or who repeatedly visit Finland from those former socialist states. Pentecostal Finnish Kale have been in contact with East European Roma since the historic fall of the “Iron Curtain” in 1989 and the opening of the borders of the former Socialist European bloc countries to those European countries considered to be in the ‘Western’ bloc. The nature of that relationship changed at the beginning of 2007, when Bulgaria and Romania entered the EU and their citizens were able to visit and look for employment in Finland.
This is the first extensive anthropological study on the interaction of different Roma groups in Finland and in general. The subject is interesting because it provides an opportunity to examine the interplay of different forms of identity – ethnic, religious and national. The research is based on an ethnographic description of encounters between Finnish and Eastern European Roma in Finland that took place over a period of 14 months of intensive fieldwork (2014-2015), supported by the insights and understanding gained through more than 20 years of personal friendship with Finnish and Bulgarian Roma, as well as one and a half years of social work amongst Finnish Kale. The theoretical frame is provided by research literature on Roma in the fields of anthropology and ethnology as well as anthropological studies on ethnicity, ethnic identity, Pentecostalism and Charismatic Christianity as well as nationality.
My argument is that the social dynamics between nationality, ethnicity and religious identification determines the particular kind of sense of belonging that Roma in Helsinki have, which in turn affects the type of relation members of different Roma groups feel towards one another. Through exploring multiple everyday interactions between this groups, I have been able to show that religious belonging is the key factor that draws different groups together, due to the mutual trust and obligation that such belonging entails.
The research contributes to the understanding of identity as a constantly ongoing process of identification as well as to the understanding of the role of spirituality in shaping people’s course of life.
Tilldelningsdatum28 sep. 2019
Tryckta ISBN978-951-51-3396-0
Elektroniska ISBN978-951-51-3395-3
StatusPublicerad - 2019
MoE-publikationstypG4 Doktorsavhandling (monografi)


  • 5143 Social- och kulturantropologi

Citera det här