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Doctoral defense - Anamaria Berbec Chiritoiu on "Making virtue out of necessity in a southern Romanian mahala"

Doctoral defense - Anamaria Berbec Chiritoiu
Tuesday, March 1, 2022, 3:40 pm – 7:20 pm

The Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology cordially invites you to the  Public PhD Defense of   

 Anamaria Berbec-Chiritoiu 


 “Making virtue out of necessity in a southern Romanian mahala 

Defense Committee  

Chair:  Violetta Zentai, Center for Policy Studies and Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU

Supervisor: Daniel Monterescu, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU

Internal examiner: Andreas Dafinger, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU

External examiner: Anastasia Piliavsky, The India Institute at King’s College London

External reader: Paloma Gay y Blasco, Department of Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews 

This thesis is an ethnography of inequality, social order, and virtue set in the midst a Roma population who call themselves ‘Thieves’ (‘Rom Čor’). The Rom Čor maintain that what sets them apart from other Roma and from non-Roma is their ‘talent’ to outsmart the latter through various means of wealth extraction. In this thesis, however, I analyse outsmarting beyond the logic of procurement, legal categories, and methodological moralism. Instead, I propose to view outsmarting as the Rom Čor’s attempt to circumvent the social exclusion that defines their place in society and to assert themselves in a social landscape dominated by non-Roma where they are denied access to basic resources and, what is perhaps even more vexing, dignity. Outsmarting highlights a proactive and resourceful agency that inserts control into a system of structural restrictions and power inequalities. I argue that the social inequality that encroaches the Rom from without and the hierarchies that they cultivate from within interact dialectically to place outsmarting at the core of the Rom Čor’s social reproduction, in both material and ideological terms. As the first ethnography of the Rom Čor, this research is new. Using a holistic approach, I examine how the Rom cultivate virtue through adverse circumstances across a variety of contexts: place-making, domesticity, making relations, legal practices, stealing, and politics. My argument is that the Rom strive for, and often achieve, virtuous personhood not just despite, but also through social exclusion and the many obstacles that this raises in the way of having a good life. In this ethnography of social order, crime, and virtue at the European margins, I analyse the relation between social inequality and virtuous personhood not as adversative, but as dialectical. And, with that, I argue that people do not merely aspire to live good lives in spite of social exclusion, but by virtue of it; indeed, they make virtue out of necessity.  


You can attend this event on the Vienna campus in A-419 or register here for the zoom link