Inter-group interactions during missionary work among Roma

Workshop on “Inter-group interactions during missionary work among Roma”

23.11.2020 10-15 EET University of Helsinki

The project “Interaction in Romani in everyday speech situations: case studies in Estonia”, led by Prof Kimmo Granqvist held a workshop on “Inter-group interactions during missionary work among Roma” on November 23, 2010 10–15 EET (GMT+2) organized by the University of Helsinki. Due to the travelling restrictions caused by COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was be held over Zoom.

The workshop was attended by:

  • Prof Kimmo Granqvist, University of Helsinki
  • Anette Ross, University of Helsinki
  • Anca Enache, University of Helsinki
  • PhD Lidia Gripenberg, University of Helsinki
  • PhD Laszlo Foszto, Södertörn University, Stockholm
  • PhD Kirill Kozhanov, Södertörn University, Stockholm,
  • Eva-Liisa Roht-Yilmaz, University of Tartu

The participants were invited to reflect upon the different aspects of inter-group interactions within missionary activities among Roma (language, cultural norms, group hierarchy etc.) The workshop consisted of two presentations, 30 min each and discussion.

László Fosztó presented on Negotiating Social Boundaries: a network-based approach to language and religious activism among the Roma”

Lidia Gripenberg presented on: Finnish Roma Pentecostal missionaries on their relationship with Estonian Roma” – Work in progress

Abstracts of the presentations are included. For more information on the presentations, kindly contact the presenters directly.


László Fosztó, Södertörn University, Stockholm,

Negotiating Social Boundaries: a network-based approach to language and religious activism among the Roma

Almost two decades ago Bernard Spolsky (2003) identified the religious domain as site for language contact. He observed that the ways in which language and religion interact to produce language contact is a little studied territory. Theoretically informed analyses of language contact within the field or religious activities and rituals were exceptional (Schiffman 1996) and remained rare even to this point. This seems rather paradoxical considering the salience attributed to language by missionary organizations, the long traditions of translation of the sacred scriptures, and the large number of religious outreach workers learning and describing language varieties within different groups across the globe.

The development of information technology during the recent years made the interactions between language and religion even more vibrant. Within Christianity the most conspicuous changes happen due to the globalization of Charismatic and Pentecostal movements (Coleman and Hackett 2015). Roma Pentecostalism is a variant of this global religious awakening. In this presentation I will introduce a network-based approach to observe and describe the interactions between language and this particular form of religion. I will take as entry point the recent intensification of online religious activism as a consequence of the COVID 19 pandemics. My main aim is to formulate a working hypothesis for the case of interactions of Romani and the charismatic Christianity and present examples of language contact and repertoire formation in the domain of computer mediated communication.

Coleman, Simon, and Rosalind I. J. Hackett, eds. 2015. The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. New York: New York University Press.

Schiffman, Harold F. 1996. Linguistic Culture and Language Policy. London ; New York, NY: Routledge.

Spolsky, Bernard. 2003. “Religion as Site of Language Contact.” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 23 (March): 81–94.


Lidia Gripenberg, Helsinki University, Social and Cultural Anthropology,

“When it is in the Heart this Issue, let’s say that One is Like a Horse, all the Time Pits” Finnish Roma on experiences of interaction with and missionizing amongst Estonian Roma

The article investigates Finnish Roma experiences of their interaction with Estonian Roma in Estonia. The investigation focuses on the period after 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 the ‘Western’ bloc up to present. The research data came from theme interviews and informal conversations conducted in connection with my PhD thesis on “The Interaction of Finnish Roma and East European Roma in Finland”, as well as an indirect observation of the missionizing activities of Finnish Kale amongst Estonian Roma in the late 1990: s and the turn of the millennium. The themes of the interviews are based on the findings of earlier academic research on Roma cultural and ethnic identity and Pentecostal missionary work. The results show that Finnish Kale envision their already 30 years long endeavor among Estonian Roma as a calling from God and expression of a “God given love” towards their fellow Roma. Roma identity was seen as uniting factor and a source of feeling of belonging but not as the major factor driving the mission. Rather, following the urge for evangelizing, inherent to way Pentecostal teaching is lived out and the possibilities indigenous channels, based on common ethnic identity open were in the core of the narratives of the participants of the research.

Key words: Roma, ethnic identity, interaction, Roma Identity, Pentecostalism, conversion, missionary work

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