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“Roma” Label: The Deconstructed and Reconceptualized Category within the Pentecostal and Charismatic Pastoral Discourse in Contemporary Slovakia



This paper deals with the ways of reconceptualization and negotiation of a new ethnicity and identity within the Pentecostal and Charismatic pastoral discourse among the Gypsies/Roma of Slovakia. The analysis is based on three denominations: the Word of Life movement in Plavecký Štvrtok, the Maranata Christian Mission in Spišská Nová Ves and the St. Paul’s Community within the Greek-Catholic Church in Čičava. The comparative analysis of pastoral and converts’ narratives has shown that the “New Roma” category is constructed as an ahistorical category of practice, which is intentionally largely ethnically emptied and creatively filled with specific content according to the life goals and paths of particular users either at the individual level or at the community level in line with the creed of good, moral, useful and decent life (of a Christian = Human = Rom). Research has revealed that in spite of the strong trans-social and trans-ethnic discourse, according to which believers should lose the reason for taking into account the inter-group stratifications, they still remain ethnically and socially sensitive. An important change in this context is, however, that the previous paradigm Gypsies versus “Whites” turns, after conversion, into the paradigm Roma alongside other nations. This fundamentally changes the basic classificatory schemes and positional way of defining themselves in relation to others. The New Rom is primarily the negation of the Old Rom, not of the White/Gadjo. The way in which Pentecostal and Charismatic pastors positively reconstruct, reconceptualize and negotiate the “New Roma” identity at the individual, group, collective and national levels goes largely beyond the traditional (modern) perception of ethnic identities and does not take into account historical origin, country, language, culture, etc. as constitutive elements. From this viewpoint, the Pentecostal and Charismatic pastors operating among Gypsies/Roma in contemporary Slovakia would be considered to be engineers, mentors and tutors of ethnoreligious innovation based on the concept of relocation and accommodation of Gypsies into the new and positively reconceptualized label Rom/a.