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Fire In The Dark

Fire In The Dark: Telling Gypsiness in North East England

Sarah Buckler
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Fire In The Dark
    Book Description:

    Anthropologists who are employed to change the worlds they are researching find themselves in a potentially contradictory position. Combining the various roles and expectations involved in working with Gypsies and local government at the same time as conducting anthropological research, provides the overall perspective of this study. It is an unusual and effective balance of insightful ethnography and anthropological theory with the perspective of someone employed to carry out applied work. An effective and creative use of metaphor structures the entire work and allows complex ideas to be conveyed in an accessible way. Drawing upon traditional anthropological approaches such as kinship and story telling and engaging with the works of major social theorists such as Weber, Bourdieu and Foucault as well as the work of contemporary anthropologists, this work demonstrates the use of anthropology in understanding changing situations and in deciding how best to manage such situations.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-317-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Sal Buckler
  5. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Beginning of February 2002: I was sitting in a poorly lit council chamber, around a large square of tables with approximately twenty other people. Sitting alongside me were two Romany Gypsies, Janey and Robert, whom I had worked with for almost four years – I was a development officer for a local charity. Also present were representatives of various departments of the council and other service providers: health workers, education workers, police and so on. We were all there with the same purpose in mind – to decide upon a course of action for the council regarding the presence of...


    • Chapter 1 Defining the Field: People and Practice in an Indeterminate Place
      (pp. 5-21)

      Early in 1998 I wandered on to a semi-deserted Gypsy site in Bankside to meet a man called Charlie Oldham and his wife, Jane.¹ Until then I had never visited a Gypsy camp, instead I did as most others seemed to and looked on from a distance, wondering about the people who lived in the caravans that would park around the area from time to time. As I walked on to the site I had a number of voices running around in my head, voices that repeated the well-meaning concerns of friends and family – ‘Take care,’ ‘Will you be...

    • Chapter 2 Reaching an Understanding Methods and Analysis
      (pp. 22-36)

      In the following description and discussion of my chosen methods, I refer to the methods involved in gathering information and also to the methods used in the production of the book. I show how the research process has not been separated from the writing-up process in any clear way: how writing up and researching simultaneously make the book what it is and are again evidence of the inappropriateness of the boundary metaphor.

      If the metaphor of a boundary creates an inappropriate framework to contextualise my work with Gypsies and the ethnographic description I endeavour to give in this work, it...

    • Chapter 3 The Past and Present Making of Teesside: Building a Place in the World, Finding a Place amongst People
      (pp. 37-52)

      When I first arrived in Teesside I approached from the west. I have vivid memories of that first arrival, memories that are built upon each time I make the same journey. I left the A1(m) to follow the Tees Valley eastwards, heading towards the North Sea. As the land I travelled through became flatter, the horizons behind me and to my right took on the character of distant walls. The plateaux of the Yorkshire Dales (behind me) and the North Yorkshire Moors (off to my right) seemed to force my journey on towards the sea. In front of me stretched...


    • Chapter 4 Stories and Teaching Gypsiness
      (pp. 57-80)

      Taking place in mid-October, Yarm Fair is usually the last in the season, but in 2001 it was both first and last. The foot-and-mouth outbreak had resulted in the cancellation of the usual summer horse fairs; Yarm Fair was still able to take place because nowadays there is little horse dealing – most of the economic activity is carried out by the Show People, who put their rides and stalls at one end of the high street. Gypsies fill up the other end of the high street with horse-drawn wagons and trailers and plenty of fortune-tellers ordukkerers.

      This year,...

    • Chapter 5 Stories and the Telling of Family
      (pp. 81-98)

      In the previous chapter we saw how stories combine to form a cultural landscape that provides a sense-making context for one’s own and others’ actions. Such a landscape also affords possible future actions or projects, whilst not determining those actions or the associated patterns of expectation or aesthetic and moral judgements. We saw how Gypsies’ stories have certain themes that can be drawn upon by individuals in order to create their own personal stock of stories. We saw, for instance, how ideas about ‘strangers’ described a world whereby what lay outside the immediate known circle was rendered strange and unaccountable....

    • Chapter 6 Home is Where the Heart Is
      (pp. 99-117)

      In the previous chapter I examined how stories about family and about family members create and maintain a sense of belonging within a network of relationships. So far, we have examined these stories as they were told to me by individual Gypsies talking about their lives and their families. In the chapter that follows, I shall examine the ways in which these relationships are continually recreated and so maintained through the everyday talk of Gypsies. We shall move from a discussion of how a sense of being Gypsy is articulated in the exchange of a single person talking to another...

    • Chapter 7 The Negotiation of Moral Ambivalence
      (pp. 118-136)

      As part of the process of teaching ‘how to be’, stories need to teach ways of dealing with tensions, such as those between ideas about ‘real’ Gypsies and tinkers, etc., which were outlined in chapter 1. In this chapter I explore how learning these strategies through stories allows for cultural scenarios to be realised in the narratives and social action of everyday life. So far, I have shown how a practice of storytelling articulates with the construction and experience of the world, and I have focused on the idea of ‘family’ in order to do this. In the chapter that...

    • Part II Summary
      (pp. 137-140)

      As we have seen in chapters 4 and 5, the importance of an intersubjective relationship is fundamental to the socialisation process through which we cross the ‘cognitive gap’. Such a relationship, to work effectively, must incorporate more than a style of speech (for instance, the ‘motherese’ referred to in the work of various psychologists (see Trevarthen and Aitken 2000)); it must also incorporate certain emotive and affective actions. In these first intersubjective relationships, we are cared for and begin to learn how to care for others – a process that continues throughout the developing complexities of becoming an adult. In...


    • Part III Introduction
      (pp. 145-146)

      In the previous section I explored the ways in which telling stories and the stories that are told constitute a social world that is distinctly Gypsy and which, at the same time, articulates with and inflects the non-Gypsy world. This is carried out in ways that are fluid and underdetermining, whilst still being recognisable as belonging to a tradition of practice. In the following section, I shall look at a similar process but from a rather different perspective. I shall concentrate on the ways that Gypsiness is told in the non-Gypsy world, again looking at the telling of and content...

    • Chapter 8 The Mediated Moral Imagination
      (pp. 147-165)

      I noted in chapter 4 that stories are used to teach people how to be in the mainstream world (the dark), though not in the same way as they are used in the Gypsies’ world. In this chapter I shall explore some of the ways that people from the mainstream are taught to know about Gypsies and the impact this has upon the actions of people from the world of the non-Gypsies when they enter those wastelands that are meeting points of different perspectives, understandings and interpretations and that are the ground for different motivations, intentions and actions.

      In order...

    • Chapter 9 A Meeting of Minds?
      (pp. 166-184)

      One evening in November 2001 I was called to an emergency meeting in the offices of one of the local authorities on Teesside. The reason for the meeting was the arrival of an unauthorised encampment of Gypsies in the area; as development worker with Gypsies and Travellers, it was felt that I would perhaps know something about who was on the camp, why they were there and how long they were intending to stop. As is common when an unauthorised camp appears, there had been a number of complaints, both from residents of houses close to the camp and from...

    • Chapter 10 Managing Multiple Perspectives
      (pp. 185-201)

      In the ‘Fire’ section of this book, I described how Gypsies’ sense of being in the world is informed by the stories they are told, the ways they are told those stories and the social world they learn to be part of as a result of being taught through the use of stories. At the end of that section, I described a scene from a christening that took place on the high street at Yarm while the annual fair was on. In examining the exchanges at the christening, especially those between the minister and the Gypsies present, it became clear...

  9. Conclusions
    (pp. 202-206)

    I would like to end on a reflective note, to consider what I feel I have achieved through producing this study. I began with a puzzle, a tangle of human interactions that apparently shared both motive and intent but that nevertheless did not manage to reach an agreed conclusion. I went on to unravel these interactions, in the process showing how they consisted (at least in part) of suggested storylines, possible stories that had their origins in various traditions of practice and that are projected into the future, linking into other storylines that stretch between people and that move those...

  10. Appendix I Kinship Charts
    (pp. 207-212)
  11. Appendix II Newspaper Cuttings
    (pp. 213-216)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-228)
  13. Index
    (pp. 229-234)