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ETHNONYMS: Gypsies, and all corresponding terms in the various European languages (Bohémiens, Cigani, Cíngaros, Gitanos, Gitans, Mustalainen, Tataren, Tsiganes, Zigeuner, Zingari, etc.). Travelers or Travellers and all corresponding terms in the various European languages (Gens du Voyage, Rasende, Viajeros, Voyageurs, etc.). Rom or phonetically similar terms (Beaš, Camminanti, Hantrika, Jenischen, Kale, Korrner, Manuš, Minceir, Pavé, Quinquis, Romanicel, Romanies, Rudari, Sinte or Sinti, Woonwagenbewoners, etc.)


All complex societies (with a division of labor determined not solely on the basis of sex, with a hierarchical sociopolitical organization, with an economy capable of producing a surplus) leave a potential space for those people referred to, among other terms, as "groups that don't want in." Such a definition is to be understood in both a sociological and an epistemo-logical sense: these groups "don't want in" (1) as far as the hierarchical organization of the society in which they live is concerned, and (2) as far as traditional anthropological categories are concerned. Regarding both these characteristics, one could say that they have been considered by Europeans as "good to think about" symbolically, "good to prohibit" Politically, but "indigestible to study" anthropologically. Social anthropology has discovered them only in the last few decades, rejecting the results of the two main theoretical approaches with which they were previously studied: the sociopsychology of disadjustment and positivist, racist criminology. Beyond this rejection, however, no unanimous consensus exists as to how to categorize the "groups that don't want in"; certain scholars consider it erroneous to attempt to create a single defined category. Among the various terms proposed, "peripatetics" has had the greatest theoretical elaboration and today enjoys the greatest consensus. The three main characteristics of the peripatetic groups are: spatial mobility; subsistence based on the sale of goods and/or services outside the group; and endogamy. Since these three features may vary greatly from one group to another, some groups occupy marginal positions that are difficult to define in terms of such a theoretical elaboration. We could thus assert that the main characteristic of the "groups that don't want in" is their extraordinary structural flexibility. The "groups that don't want in" are those who can be categorized as "peripatetics" at certain historical-geographical junctures, but not at others.

Identification. Such groups are currently referred to in Europe as Gypsies and Travellers. The difference between the two categories would appear to reside in their "origin": the former are thought to come from India, the latter to be native Europeans. Since the "origin" is not always verifiable and since several present-day groups may be the result of a fusion between groups of autochthonous origin and groups of an extra-European origin, certain scholars have merged the two terms into "Traveller-Gypsies." In order to maintain the traditional distinction between Gypsies and Travellers, we can subdivide the former into two large sets based on self-denominations: (1) the "Rom" set includes all those groups whose autonym is Rom or one of its phonetic variants (Rom, Róma, Roma, Romje, etc.); (2) the "rom" set includes all those groups that, though having other autonyms, use or formerly used the term "rom," or its variants, with the meaning of "men" or "husband" (Kale, Manuš, Romaničel, Sinti). In some cases, among these last groups, "rom" can also mean "man of our group," thus becoming concurrent with the normally used autonym.

Location. With the possible exception of Iceland and Malta, all European countries are host to a permanent Presence of peripatetic groups. Although the three sets we have categorized"Rom," "rom," and "Travellers"are represented today in communities throughout the European continent, we can indicate, nevertheless, approximate areas of major concentration, historically speaking. An imaginary line (Rome-Vienna-Prague-Helsinki) divides Gypsy Europe into two parts: the western half is noted for its preponderance of "rom" groups, while in the eastern half there is a large majority of "Rom" groups. This line is only an indication of concentration tendenciesafter the great migrations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries some "rom" communities (especially Sinti) are found in the east and, more importantly, many "Rom" groups have moved to the west. The "Traveller" groups, though in general widely dispersed, also seem to be concentrated in specific regions, which are either marginal or enclaves of the "rom" zone. On the Celtic fringe (Ireland and Scotland), in Scandinavia (but not in Finland) and in the northern Alps (especially the Swiss part, inhabited mainly by Jenischen), these Traveller groups appear to be in the majority. From here, along a corridor running up through Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhine valley (where the Jenischen are outnumbered by "rom" groups, though their number is by no means negligible), we reach the Netherlands, where the local Travellers (Woonwagenbewoners) appear to outnumber the "rom" and "Rom" groups.

Demography. Many estimates have been made as to the numbers of Gypsies and Travellers present in Europe. Here we cite only three: Puxon (1973) counts exactly 4,745,475; Vossen (1983) gives a minimum number of 1,988,000 and a maximum of 5,621,000; Liégeois (1986) calculates a minimum of 3,421,750 and a maximum of 4,935,000. More consistent estimates, however, can be obtained using the same authors' data for areas of larger concentration. Their presence seems concentrated in the Danubian-Carpathian region (the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic; Hungary; the former Yugoslavia; Romania; and Bulgaria) with percentages Between 59.1 percent (Puxon) and 64.6 percent (Vossen) of the total European peripatetic population. The southwestern region (Spain and France) is also important with estimates between 15.2 percent (Liégeois) and 18.7 percent (Puxon), whereas percentage estimates for the nations of the former Soviet Union prove to be of little significance, given the lack of more precise data on concentration within this vast territorybetween 6 percent (Liégeois) and 10 percent (Puxon). In the rest of Europe there results a more dispersed presence amounting to a percentage somewhere between 12.2 percent (Puxon) and 14.3 percent (Liégeois) of the total Gypsy and Traveller population.

History and Cultural Relations

History. The presence of itinerant groups that lived by trade and handicraft in medieval Europe is fairly well documented. Certain mangones and occiones, horse dealers and metalworkers, were itinerant in Charlemagne's empire (eighth century). In twelfth-century Ireland, certain tynkers were to be found, and at the beginning of the fourteenth century nomads by the name of sculuara were the subject of one of the king of Sweden's decrees. In addition to the continual presence of these groups of presumably autochthonous origin, medieval Europe would seem to be scoured now and then by foreign groups: "Egyptian" acrobats visit Greece, Macedonia, and Spain, while an "Ethiopian" group given to magic artistry visits Italy, Spain, France, and England during the thirteenth century. However, undoubtedly at the start of the fifteenth century Western exotic nomads began to invade western Europe. Their presence in the Balkans had already been noted during the previous two centuries. Although Europeans used many names to describe these foreigners, two are by far the most common: "Egyptians" in the Atlantic Regions, which was to become "Gitanos" in Spanish, "Gitans" in French, "Gypsies" in English, etc.; and "Cigani" (a term whose etymon is dubiousperhaps from the Greek word "Atsinganoi") used in central-eastern Europe with several variants: "Zigeuner" in German, "Zingari" in Italian, "Cingani" in modern Latin, etc. The two terms overlap in many regions. The relationships established between the newcomers and the local peripatetic groups do not appear to have been always univocal. Although it may be true that Modern literature notes several cases of "counterfeit Egyptians," that is, people of the so-called "dangerous classes" joining bands of Gypsies or passing themselves off as Gypsies, it is equally true that foreign peripatetics often kept their identity distinct from that of the local ones. As far back as the sixteenth century, one anonymous author compared the two groups and demonstrated their diversity through Ethnographic and linguistic data. Language research, in fact, dates back to the end of the eighteenth century and plays an Important role in the study of the history of the exotic peripatetics' migrations, by making the connection between Romani (the language of the Gypsies) and the neo-Sanskrit languages of India. The race to discover the Gypsies' Indian origins (the region of India they came from) and the era of their departure was, thus, initiated. Different interpretations of certain phonological and lexicological features have resulted in moving the "country" of origin, from central India either to Northwest India or to the region of present-day Afghanistan. The date of departure is still uncertain; the date currently proposed is a.d. 1000, though some scholars date this as far back as the seventh or eighth century a.d. Linguists maintain that the numerous terms in the Romani language of non-Indian origin (above all Persian, Armenian, and Greek) are proof of the journey undertaken from India to Europe. According to a recent hypothesis, however, during the Middle Ages, the Romani language could have been a sort of lingua franca, used along the trade routes connecting Europe to the East. This hypothesis implies that the present-day European Gypsies, albeit speakers of neo-Indian dialects, may not be the Direct descendants of peoples living in India today. According to linguists, however, the Gypsies who came to Europe spoke an essentially unitary language, which then became more and more diversified as a result of the borrowings from the Languages of the European people among whom they settled or among whom they practiced their nomadism. On the basis of these borrowings, the linguists identify six or seven major Romani dialectal groups, still in use today or spoken up to the last century.

Cultural Relations. The patterns of Gypsy dispersion and settlement within modern Europe are practically unknown and consequently so are the modalities of the ethnogenesis of the Gypsy groups as they appear today. Nevertheless, two factors would appear to be at the basis of such modalities: the external relationships with non-Gypsies and the inter-Gypsy relationships. As far as the former are concerned, we can distinguish, very schematically, two political approaches adopted by European governments towards Gypsy populations: the "western" approach, aimed at the annihilation of the Gypsies, and the "Danubian" approach, aimed at the exploitation of Gypsy labor. The western approach consisted of thousands of banishments, mass imprisonment, deportation to American and African colonies, Gypsy hunting for rewards, with the resulting genocide, and, at the best, attempts at forced assimilation. The culmination of this tradition is the genocide of the Nazi period when more than half a Million Gypsies were exterminated. This figure does not bear true witness, however, to the real proportions of the Holocaust, since the Gypsy presence in some areas occupied by the German forces and their allies was diminished by 80 percent. The "Danubian" approach, in contrast, saw the insertion of Gypsies in the servitude and slavery systems of southeastern Europe. Here the Gypsies were never submitted to the "western" type of mass extermination. Therefore, they have become an important part of the overall population in many eastern European countriesand not only in those countries where mixed marriages between Gypsies and non-Gypsies were formally forbidden by lawand have for the most part become sedentary. The Gypsy disequilibrium in demographic terms between the Danubian-Carpathian Region and the rest of Europe is a result of these two different political approaches. This disequilibrium has had at least two consequences. In the west the Gypsy groups have subdivided themselves mainly on a regional basis, practicing a sort of commercial eclecticism consistent with their resistance to annihilation. The dozens of subdivisions derive from this situation: the Sinti, for example, call themselves "Prussian" Sinti, "German" Sinti, "Austrian" Sinti, "Marchigiani" Sinti (from the region in central Italy called the Marches), etc. In Southeast Europe, on the other hand, the subdivisions, in addition to being regional, have also been of a professional nature. Compelled by public authorities or by economic expediency in the wake of growing demographic pressure to differentiate their professions, the Gypsy groups have often adopted ergonyms with the function of ethnonyms: Kalderaš and its variants (coppersmiths), Čurara (sieve makers), etc. This phenomenon has been seen by certain authors as a survival of the Indian caste system among the Gypsies, whereas we are, in all probability, dealing with a situation that has its origins in the Balkans. Another consequence of the demographic disequilibrium has been the Gypsies' periodic movements from the Danubian-Carpathian region to other parts of Europe, which tend to take place during periods of economic or political hardship suffered by the non-Gypsy population in the region. Thus large groups of Rom arrived in western Europe during the second half of the nineteenth century (after the abolition of slavery in Moldavia and Walachia, in 1865, but above all at the time of the Balkan states' struggle for independence against the Turks) and at the start of the twentieth century. Other groups, after a stay in Russia, took refuge in the West following the events of 1917; others from the south of Yugoslavia began to migrate to Western Europe from the beginning of the 1960s in order to escape from the local economic crisis; others continue to flee en masse from disaster-struck post-Ceausescu Romania.

These great migratory movements have always been accompanied by smaller, virtually imperceptible group movements from one region to another. In all probability, these smaller movements have contributed more than anything else to the present Gypsy disposition in Europe. One example will suffice: the Romaničel are today present only in Great Britain (apart from North America and Australia), yet the same ethnonym has been noted in Spain and France for the nineteenth century. This would lead us to believe that the Romaničel once frequented much vaster zones than they do today. Toward the end of the eighteenth century and the Beginning of the nineteenth, for reasons still unknown, there was a sort of "explosion" of the Sinti present in the Germanic countries, who gradually penetrated into the neighboring states. In some cases, they remained in the minority in relation to the Gypsy groups already present, but sometimes they perhaps "Sinticized" the local Romaničel (this is probably the case for France). In both the greater and the smaller migratory movements, there also appears to be a sort of autoregulation, because of "internal" pressures of a politicoeconomic nature. The settlement in new territories is always, in fact, made simpler when the presence of other groups is scarce or when the newcomers start to occupy "economic niches" that have yet to be exploited. The Gypsy populations, though nowadays largely sedentary, without doubt have constituted and continue to constitute the main "producers" of Peripatetic groups; however, the non-Gypsy populations have always been a potential reservoir. The Jenischen in the Germanic countries and certain Swedish Rasenede appear to have formed a distinct identity only as late as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while Dutch Woonwagenbewoners seem to have an even shorter history, dating from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Peripatetic groups therefore are useful as special observatories for the study of ethnogenesis in highly stratified Societies. Furthermore, given their great capacity to adaptwhich requires a structural flexibility that is hard to find in other populations and which enables them to escape any sort of Systematic classificationthey should be considered worthy of careful and urgent research.

See also Bulgarian Gypsies; Gitanos; Gypsies and Caravan Dwellers in the Netherlands; Irish Travellers; Piemontese Sinti; Rom of Czechoslovakia; Scandinavian Peripatetics; Slovensko Roma; Spanish Rom; Vlach Gypsies of Hungary; Xoraxané Roma


Fraser, Angus (1990). "Counterfeit Egyptians." Paper read at the Annual Meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society, Staten Island, N.Y.

Gmelch, Sharon B. (1986). "Groups That Don't Want In: Gypsies and Other Artisan, Trader, and Entertainer Minorities." Annual Review of Anthropology 15:307-330.

Hancock, Ian (1987). The Pariah Syndrome. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Karoma.

Hancock, Ian (1988). "The Development of Romani linguistics." In Languages and Cultures, edited by M. A. Jazayery and W. Winter, 182-223. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Liégeois, Jean-Pierre (1986). Gypsies and Travellers. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, Council for Cultural Co-Operation.

"De Nubianis erronibus, quos Itali Cíngaros appellant, eorumque lingua" and "De idiotismo quorundam Erronum a Nubianis non admodum absimilium" (1597). In De literis et lingua Getarum siue Gothorum, edited by C. Vulanius, 100-109. Lugduni Batavorun [Leiden]: Apud Raphelengium.

Okely, Judith (1983). The Traveller-Gypsies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Puxon, Grattan (1973). Rom: Europe's Gypsies. London: Minority Rights Group.

Rao, Aparna (1987). "The Concept of Peripatetics: An Introduction." In The Other Nomads, edited by A. Rao. Cologne: Böhlau.

Vossen, Rüdiger (1983). Zigeuner. Frankfurt: M. Ullstein.


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ETHNONYMS: Gypsies, nonpastoral nomads


Identification. The term "peripatetic" refers to spatially mobile groups who are largely nonprimary producers or extractors and whose principal economic resource is other people. They differ from pastoral nomads who mainly depend on biophysiotic resources. Peripatetics are referred to as nonpastoral nomads, other nomads, service nomads, commercial nomads, non-food-producing nomads, symbiotic nomads, wanderers, and travelers. Peripatetic groups have several common characteristics, the most important being flexible skills and knowledge of the residual resources and sensitivity to the social, cultural, linguistic, economic, and political environments of the larger social system from which they derive their subsistence. All complex societies have gaps in their service-delivery system, leaving some needs either unmet or only partially met. The peripatetic strategy is to identify such needs and adapt to them. Specific groups are identified with particular occupations. The number of peripatetic groups in India is quite large. A brief survey of two south Indian states in 1967 reported 88 different peripatetic groups as compared to 14 groups discovered over a six-month period in certain parts of Pakistan. Other studies have reported 172 groups in northern Karnataka, 40 groups in one north Indian village, and 23 in a south Indian village.

The existence of such a large number of peripatetic groups and the variety of roles they play can only be understood in the context of Indian society. In traditional India, goods and services were obtained via the jajmani relationship, weekly markets, periodical fairs, pilgrimages, and peripatetics. Thus, peripatetics were one part of the wider economic network.

Location. In India, peripatetics are found in almost all parts of the country.

Demography. According to a rough estimate made by the Nomadic Association of India, the number of peripatetics in India was 6 million in 1967, though the category of "nomad" was not specifically defined. This estimate as well as others may be wildly inaccurate, as no systematic count of peripatetics has ever been attempted. However, it can be safely assumed that the peripatetics constitute a large group in India.

Linguistic Affiliation. The native language of peripatetics is usually the language spoken in their "home village" or "camp," though most speak a number of languages and dialects. For instance, a peripatetic group with Andhra Pradesh as its "home village" will speak a dialect of Telugu as its native tongue but may also be conversant in Kannada, Marathi, and Hindi. The Gadulia Lohar, a peripatetic group of blacksmiths, in addition to speaking different dialects of Rajasthani and Hindi, speak a secret language of their own. This is typical of many peripatetics.

History and Cultural Relations

Peripatetic groups have been part of Indian civilization for hundreds of years. Evidence of peripatetic artisans and entertainers have been found for the early Vedic period. By the late Vedic period (circa 1000-700 b.c.) the Rig Veda refers to a number of specialized traders, artisans, entertainers, professional acrobats, fortune-tellers, flute players, dancers, jugglers, snake charmers, etc. Tamil literature from the first through sixth century a.d. has references to wandering musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers, and beggars. It also suggests that some of the peripatetics performed difficult tasks such as undertaking goodwill missions from one king to another or helping reconcile rival kings or brothers. In censuses, district gazetteers, and other dispatches written during the British period, the nomadic populations were often referred to as pastoralists, gypsies, or criminals. This situation has now changed somewhat, although the knowledge that the settled people of India have about peripatetics is still minimal. There are several reasons for this, including the settled people's typical suspicion of all those who are mobile, the nomads' effort to maintain an ambiguous posture with reference to the larger social system, and their attempt to cultivate a mystique about themselves.

The peripatetic groups are ethnically diverse and maintain their identities within the milieu of Indian society. Each peripatetic group has considerable autonomy to regulate its own affairs. Peripatetics adopt the style, dialect, and medium in performance of their services and supply of goods that best appeal to the imagination of the people of the region they serve. For themselves, peripatetics make conscious efforts to adopt appropriate regional customs and beliefs. They also claim a vague and ambiguous position in the varna/jati framework of the Hindu caste society. Within their own caste clusters they maintain a diffused hierarchy based on the concept of purity and pollution, and they also maintain some degree of exclusive rights to their occupations. For example, while one group of genealogists and bards serves only some middle-level castes, other groups serve only the lowest castes. Thereby, they reaffirm the hierarchical structure of the caste system but also enable even the lowest caste to have a place in the system. Myth, language, ritual, kinship, and specific occupations are used to legitimize a group's position in the caste hierarchy and to ensure its peripatetic niche. Caste endogamy and their caste panchayats (councils) play a pivotal role. People may wander far and wide yet they remain connected with their specific caste norms. In literature, peripatetics have been described as traveling specialists who provide cultural variety that is otherwise lacking in Indian villages, as popular religious instructors, as communicants of culture, and as those who carry the culture of the Great Tradition of Indian civilization to the local people.


Some peripatetics travel during only part of the year and then return to their "home village," while others travel throughout the year. Between these two extremes a number of variations are possible. In "home villages" some live in houses typical of the region, while others continue to take shelter in their bullock carts, under cloth or reed tents, or out in the open under the sky as they do while on the move. Some take shelter on temple premises as well. Generally, peripatetics intensify their movements during the harvest season because they want to obtain grain as payment for their goods and services. They also believe that farmers are more generous at this time of year. During the rainy season, the lean season for peripatetics, they tend to remain in their "home villages." The time is used for settling disputes, negotiating marriage alliances, and planning for the next work season.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Peripatetics employ a variety of economic strategies. They generally have one or more occupations for which they are well known and may use a few additional skills to supplement their income. For example, hunting, trapping, and fishing peripatetic groups may also indulge in petty trade, craft making, and begging. The artisan category includes groups such as: makers of baskets, broomsticks, palm mats, iron tools, and needles; stone-workers; and repairers of household utensils and farm tools. The mendicant category includes a variety of groups, such as those who sing devotional songs, chant incantations, beg in the name of a specific deity, wear special makeup and stand at public places in the posture of penance or as sadhus, or display a deity. Several of these groups beg only from the members of specific castes. According to Hindu belief a sadhu does not have to work for his livelihood. He can live by biksha (religious begging). Seeing a mendicant at one's doorstep in the morning is considered auspicious. Giving alms is a charitable act but receiving alms is equally meritorious. Acrobats, magicians, musicians, snake charmers, displayers of tricks by animals like monkeys, bears, etc., puppeteers, storytellers, mimes, and those who wear different makeup all also have several other subsidiary occupations. Some of them may trade in animals, fix shoes on bullock and horse hoofs, or polish cattle horns. Some women may indulge in prostitution, serving members of specific castes. There are several other groups who have developed a variety of skills including tattooers, genealogists, fortune-tellers, buffalo-hair shavers, etc. Peddlers and traders also form a large group. However, if their exploitation of a particular resource niche becomes less profitable due to new technology or competition, they switch to a new activity or settle down. In short, for peripatetics, the human resource base is ubiquitous and exploitable with an infinite variety of strategies. Joseph C. Berland has called it "the most predictable and reliable of all the niches in the world today" (1983).

Peripatetics are able to avoid competition from the sedentary population or completely eliminate it through their choice of work, low overhead, variety of strategies, flexible work groups, family-based enterprises, potential for change of location, and ability to live on little income. The sedentary provider is further restricted by the caste-based restrictions. Although the peripatetic niche apparently is inexhaustible and reliable, peripatetics are generally poor. They are continuously under pressure as their occupations are taken over by modern industry and the number of places where they can camp diminishes. If fewer people were being forced out of villages, the number of peripatetics would be much less than it is.

Trade. Some peripatetic groups trade in cattle. Such groups intensify their activities at the beginning of the agricultural season, when the demand for cattle is high. They trade at weekly markets and fairs, where they can also socialize with relatives and friends. Some peripatetic groups have been able to find new avenues of trade. For instance, a group of Gadulia Lohar have started trading in scrap iron. Some other peripatetic groups have started producing decorative items such as chandeliers, papier-mâché, etc., and now peddle them in cities.

Division of Labor. Peripatetic enterprises are family-based. If females do not participate in the main occupation of the group they do some additional work to enhance the income of the household. However, domestic tasks such as cooking, fetching water, looking after infants, etc. are female jobs.

Land Tenure. Only a few peripatetic groups own land. Such people move out of their villages only when the land is fallow or they have been able to lease it. The government has made an attempt to settle some peripatetic groups by giving them houses and land.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The most important kinship group after the household is the extended family, which may travel and camp together for a part of the year or for the entire year. Descent is traced patrilineally through a common ancestor. Members of the lineage have certain responsibilities and obligations that are expressed during life-cycle rituals and particularly in crisis situations. Some of the groups have bands, with membership determined by patrilineal, matrilineal, and affinal kin ties and by friendship.

Marriage. There are a wide variety of rules regarding marriage. While most of the groups based in central and southern India would allow or prefer cross-cousin and even uncle-niece marriage, groups in the north, west, and east prohibit such marriages. The age at marriage is generally low. Postmarital residence is always with the parents of the husband at first, but later the couple may establish their own home within the husband's father's band. Marriages are generally arranged by elders. In some groups, parents of a boy may have to pay to obtain a bride for their son.

Domestic Unit. The household is the smallest and most important domestic unit among the peripatetics. It is composed of husband, wife, and their unmarried children, and at times it may also include the husband's elderly parent(s). The composition of the household varies during different phases of its developmental cycle. Each household is economically independent and is responsible for meeting kinship obligations.

Inheritance. Inheritance is through the male line. In some of the groups it is the youngest son who inherits the household property. He also has responsibility for caring for the elderly parents.

Socialization. Children learn as they grow up and are given tasks according to their age and sex. In some groups, such as acrobats and animal displayers, children receive formal training starting in early childhood.

Sociopolitical Organization

Peripatetics are keenly aware of the need to maintain social and economic flexibility among themselves to maximize their economic returns. Each household is an independent unit and it must fend for itself. Its success depends upon the wisdom of its decisions regarding whether to break camp and move, which route to take, where to pitch a new camp, and how long to camp and with whom. While these are the crucial questions for each household's survival, the households must also maintain the ties among themselves for the survival of the group. Different peripatetic groups use different strategies to manage these critical tasks.

Social Organization. The factors that influence group cohesiveness are regional affiliation, agnatic ties in a ramifying descent system, matrilateral and affinal relations, ritual friendship, and resource potentials. Camps and bands are constituted on the basis of these factors.

Political Organization. Generally, peripatetics have been isolated from state and regional politics. Most of them do not know about or are unconcerned about political changes taking place in the country. They do not participate in any political activity and the majority of them probably do not vote. The only contact they have with governmental authority is with the subordinate police officers and sometimes with development officers.

Social Control. Social control is generally maintained by the council of elders. The council organization and its functions vary from group to group. The procedures it may adopt to resolve disputes are based on the traditions in each group. The objective is not merely to resolve a dispute per se but to arrive at a consensus in which the past behavior of the individuals and their families is also kept in view. In addition, the threat of excommunication and endogamy ensure conformity to the traditions of the group to a considerable degree. When disputing parties fail to reach a consensus, a camp band may dissolve, and different units involved in the case may travel on their own or seek to join other camps or bands.

Conflict. Conflicts and misunderstandings among peripatetics arise for a variety of reasons. Most common are those concerning marriage, sexual relations, travel routes, duration of a camp, and distribution of resources. Peripatetics generally avoid disputes with the settled populations on which they are dependent.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practitioners. The majority of the peripatetics are Hindus. There are also some Sikh and Muslim peripatetics. Their religious beliefs and practices reflect the influence of the traditions of the "home village."

Arts. Peripatetics' art is expressed through their subsistence activities. Numerous variety of bhiksaks (beggars) compose their songs and also employ different types of instruments and makeup. For example, one mendicant observed in a Mysore village wore more than 100 items on his body, and it took him a couple of hours to dress and paint himself with religious marks. Peripatetics try to be exclusive and try to remain in demand. For example, Budbudki, peripatetic fortune-tellers of Karnataka, use drums so tiny they can be held between their forefingers and thumbs; they play them while they visit houses in a locality in the morning to forecast the day's events for each household. The name of this group is taken from the sound of the drum. Leather puppeteers, acrobats, and displayers of animals continually express their creative urges through their professions.

Medicine. The majority of the peripatetics has not taken to scientific medicine. They use their own knowledge or that of the settled people to treat disease. Women give birth in their camps or at their "home villages." There are some groups that specialize in herbal medicines.

Death and Afterlife. Peripatetics accept death as part of life. They dispose of the dead body as quickly as they can, usually in the camp where the death has taken place. When they get together in the off-season, they may organize ceremonies for the dead.

See also Kanjar; Qalandar; Sadhu


Berland, Joseph C. (1983). "Peripatetic Strategies in South Asia: Skill as Capital among Nomadic Artisans and Entertainers." Nomadic Peoples 13.

Berland, Joseph C, and Matt. T. Salo, eds. (1986). "Peripatetic Peoples: An Introduction." Nomadic Peoples (Toronto) 21-22 (special issue).

Misra, P. K. (1970). "Study of Nomads." In Research Programmes on Cultural Anthropology and Allied Disciplines, edited by Surajit Sinha. Anthropological Survey of India. Calcutta.

Misra, P. K., and Rajalakshmi Misra (1982). "Nomadism in the Land of Tamils between 1 a.d. and 600 a.d." In Nomads in India, edited by P. K. Misra and K. C. Malhotra. Anthropological Survey of India. Calcutta.

Rao, Aparna (1987). "The Concept of Peripatetics: An Introduction." In The Other Nomads, edited by Aparna Rao. Cologne and Vienna: Boheau Verlag.


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The original meaning of the word peripatos was "a covered walking place." The house that Theophrastus provided for the school of Aristotle contained such a peripatos. This yielded a proper name for the school itselfthe Peripatosand its members came to be known as "those from the Peripatos" or "Peripatetics." This derivation should be preferred to that previously current, according to which the term "Peripatetic" referred to a method of teaching while walking about, known to have been used by Protagoras, for example, and assumed to have been adopted by Aristotle. Although this view goes back to Hermippus at the end of the third century BCE, it is now generally regarded as a mistaken inference, based on nothing more than the name itself.

The history of the Peripatetics can be divided into two periodsthat immediately following the death of Aristotle and that following the revival of interest in Aristotelian studies resulting from the edition of the treatises by Andronicus of Rhodes in the time of Marcus Tullius Cicero or a little later. When Theophrastus became president of the school in the year before Aristotle's death, he continued to show an interest in virtually the whole range of Aristotelian studies. But whereas it is now generally supposed that Aristotle retained a keen interest in metaphysical questions to the end of his life, it was the shift of emphasis away from Platonic otherworldliness to the phenomena of the world around us, a subject also found in Aristotle, which seems to have attracted Theophrastus most. Strato, Theophrastus's successor, made important developments in physical theory, transforming Aristotle's doctrine into a fairly full-blooded materialism. But after Strato's death about 269 BCE, his successors became almost exclusively concerned with questions about the content of the good life and the way to reach it, with questions of rhetoric, and with the distinctively Hellenistic interest in anecdote, gossip, and scandal. Many of the specifically Aristotelian doctrines were abandoned, and the school had become very much the same as a number of others in Athens by the end of the second century BCE.

The reasons for this disintegration are uncertain. It may be that the concentration of interest upon empirical questions discouraged speculation. Empiricism as such, however, has interested philosophers intensely at other periods of history. Some have supposed that the disintegration was part of a philosophic failure of nerve characteristic of the Hellenistic age as a whole. But this view of the Hellenistic age is probably incorrect, and in any case such a failure of nerve clearly applied less to Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics of the period than it did to the Peripatetics. Thus, their fate would remain unexplained.

It may be that the history of the Aristotelian writings had something to do with what happened to the Peripatetics. According to the well-known story, on Theophrastus' death his copies of Aristotle's writings went to Neleus of Scepsis in the Troad (Asia Minor). In one extreme view this meant that the Peripatetics in Athens thereafter had access only to the published works of Aristotlenamely, the dialogues. In fact, there seem to have been copies of at least some of the treatises available in Alexandria, in Rhodes, and probably in Athens throughout the Hellenistic period. They do not appear to have been much studied in the Peripatos, however, where knowledge of Aristotle came primarily from the writings of Theophrastus when not from the dialogues. Indeed, in a sense the school of Aristotle might more correctly be called the school of Theophrastus. The weakness of its links with Aristotle's own thought may explain its relative failure in philosophy.

Andronicus of Rhodes wrote a special study on the order of Aristotle's works and published an edition of the treatises in the order in which they have survived to us. His edition is the source of all subsequent ones. Andronicus is sometimes dated as early as 70 BCE, but as Cicero never refers to his edition, it may not have been published until after Cicero's death in 43 BCE. Andronicus initiated a revival in Aristotelian studies, and the Peripatos flourished at least down to the time of Alexander of Aphrodisias (about 200 CE). Among those influenced by this revival were the geographer Ptolemy and the physician Galen. Alexander wrote important commentaries on the main Aristotelian treatises, and the tradition of writing such commentaries continued into the Byzantine period through such scholars as Themistius, Ammonius, and Simplicius, who must be classed as Platonists rather than as Aristotelians. All the commentators treated Aristotle's writings as a systematic corpus, and from the start all were influenced in varying degrees by both Stoic and Platonist doctrines.

The general approach, apart from certain unintended distortions, was intensely conservative. From time to time modifications of interest were proposed, however. The successor of Andronicus, Boëthius of Sidon (who is not to be confused with the earlier Stoic of the same name), rejected the doctrine that the universal is prior by nature to the particular and would not grant to form the title of primary substance. In so doing, he took a big step in the direction of medieval nominalism. The pseudo-Aristotelian treatise De Mundo is often regarded as a product of this period. It culminates in a theology in which a transcendent deity maintains order in the cosmos by the exercise of an undefined power, and in a general way the work has affinities with both Stoic writers like Posidonius and Neoplatonists. It seems, however, to imitate the Aristotle of the dialogues rather than the treatises, and it may antedate the edition of Andronicus.

See also Alexander of Aphrodisias; Aristotelianism; Aristotle; Cicero, Marcus Tullius; Empiricism; Epicureanism and the Epicurean School; Galen; Hellenistic Thought; Neoplatonism; Platonism and the Platonic Tradition; Posidonius; Protagoras of Abdera; Simplicius; Stoicism; Strato and Stratonism; Themistius; Theophrastus.


The earlier Peripatetics, fragments and testimonia, are in Die Schule des Aristoteles, edited by F. Wehrli, 10 parts (Basel, 19441959). See also P. Moraux, Les listes anciennes des ouvrages d'Aristote (Louvain, Belgium, 1951); I. Düring, Aristotle in the Ancient Biographical Tradition (Goteborg, Sweden, 1957), Part III, Chs. XVII and XVIII, and Part IV; and C. O. Brink, "Peripatos," in Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, edited by A. Pauly and G. Wissowa, Supp. Vol. VII (Stuttgart, 1940). See also the Aristotelian commentators in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca, 23 vols. and 3 supp. vols. (Berlin, 18821909). De Mundo is translated by D. J. Furley with Aristotle's On Sophistical Refutations ; translated by E. S. Forster (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1955).

G. B. Kerferd (1967)

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ETHNONYMS: Gypsies, Irish Travelers, Rom, Romnichels, Ludars, Scottish Travelers

Peripatetic peoples consist of small, ethnically recruited, kinship-based bands who make their living by providing goods and services to the larger population. These groups are often called "Gypsies." Instead of relying directly on natural resources, peripatetics exploit a social resource base that, although ubiquitous and relatively predictable overall, is characterized by intermittent demand and patchy geographical distribution. Peripatetics usually utilize a wide range of procurement and maintenance strategies. Their relations with the surrounding populations are marked by opportunistic and shifting economic responses, ethnic separation, and ideological opposition that sanctions the economic exploitation of the host population. Although these peripatetic groups are ubiquitous in North America, being present in every state of the Union and in Canada, they are few in number and Scattered in distribution; because they maintain a low profile, they go largely unnoticed by the majority of the population. Each constitutes a separate ethnic entity maintaining its identity and distance from the larger society as well as from other peripatetic groups. Each also has its own history, cultural traditions, and a language or dialect that protect against assimilation. Kinship-based and largely egalitarian, their Social organization recognizes no leaders beyond an occasional "big man." Most viable social units consist of endogamous family bands whose composition and distribution fluctuates according to concentration of exploitable resources and the degree of amity among members.

A variety of groups in North America can be said to have been traditionally peripatetic, and among them are many families who still continue a peripatetic life-style. These include non-Gypsy Irish and Scottish Travelers and four Gypsy groups: the Rom (of which there are several subgroups), Romnichels, or English Gypsies, Ludar, or Rumanian Gypsies, and a group of German Gypsies calling itself the Black Dutch. The category of peripatetic groups overlaps that of groups who identify themselves as "Gypsies." Some Peripatetic groups, such as the Irish and Scottish Travelers, do not call themselves Gypsies and are apparently of indigenous Irish or Scottish ancestry. One American Gypsy group which is sedentary, and perhaps has been for generations, is the Hungarian-Slovak Gypsies, some of whom are called Romungri and who have traditionally provided professional Musical entertainment to the Central European immigrant Communities of the northern industrial cities. In addition, there are families not belonging to any of the above-mentioned groups, but who currently follow a peripatetic life-style; they are disdainfully called "Refs" by the members of the other groups.

North America received its first viable group of Peripatetics with the arrival of the Romnichels, whose immigration began in 1850. They soon found a lucrative trade in the rapidly increasing demand for horses, first in agriculture and then in urbanizing areas before the advent of tractors and automobiles. After the rapid decline of horse trade following the First World War, most Romnichels relied on previously Secondary enterprises, such as basket making, manufacture and sale of rustic furniture, and fortune-telling. Their reliance on horse and mule trading continued longer in the South where poverty and terrain slowed the adoption of mechanized agriculture. Today, most are engaged in a variety of home-repair trades among which roofing, spray painting, and seal coating are the main pursuits.

Although their history has not yet been fully explored, the Irish and Scottish Travelers seem to have arrived shortly after the Romnichels and followed similar pursuits. They are the offshoots of groups commonly called tinkers in the old country after their main means of livelihood; after arriving in North America, however, most pursued a wide range of peripatetic strategies before concentrating on the horse and mule trade after the Civil War. After the decline of that trade, many families relied on the sale of various items, among which linoleum seems to have been prominent. Today, spray painting is a major occupation.

The next large influx of peripatetics into the New World began in the 1880s with the arrival of the Rom and Ludar Gypsy groups interspersed among the waves of other Immigrants from Eastern Europe. The Rom at first relied heavily on itinerant copper-smithing work, although horse trading and fortune-telling also remained situationally significant pursuits. After the replacement of copper vats in small businesses and industry by stainless steel and Monel metal, the Rom came to rely more and more on their women's fortune-telling as a main strategy. This emphasis continues today, supplemented by the men's car and trailer sales, fender repairs, black-topping, and roofing work.

Upon their arrival, most of the Ludar were engaged in animal exhibitions and other work related to traveling entertainment. In fact, passenger manifests show bears and monkeys as a major part of their baggage. Although continuing to travel widely throughout North America, the Ludar have also formed concentrated settlements comprising related families, such as shantytowns in the 1930s and, more recently, trailer parks. Today, many Ludar are also in the black-topping and roofing trades. Some remain in the entertainment industry and continue to travel with carnivals. Still others manufacture rustic furniture, which is then sold door-to-door.

Regardless of current specializations or strategies favored by the peripatetic groups, each retains a built-in flexibility to adapt as its environment changes. Most individuals are masters of several trades; even where some families have seemingly "settled down," readiness for mobility remains a viable alternative. In contrast to the ever-changing economic Strategies, little change is noted in the ethnocentric ideology, social separation from the majority population, endogamy, and other factors that contribute to the maintenance of a strong ethnic identity.

See also Irish Travelers, Rom


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per·i·pa·tet·ic / ˌperipəˈtetik/ • adj. 1. traveling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods: the peripatetic nature of military life. 2. (Peripatetic) Aristotelian. • n. 1. a person who travels from place to place. 2. (Peripatetic) an Aristotelian philosopher. DERIVATIVES: per·i·pa·tet·i·cal·ly / -ik(ə)lē/ adv. per·i·pa·tet·i·cism / -ˈtetəˌsizəm/ n.

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peripatetic (member) of the school of philosophy founded by Aristotle, who taught in a peripatos or walking place in the Lyceum at Athens. XVI. — (O)F. péripatétique or L. peripatēticus — Gr. peripatētikós, f. peripateîn walk up and down, f. PERI- + pateîn tread; see -IC.