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In recent years there has been an abundance of books on nomadic incipient and primary producers - on hunter-gatherers and pastoralists. However, peripatetics, namely endogamous nomads who are largely nonprimary producers or extractors, and whose principal resources are constituted by other human populations have been largely overlooked. Although occasional anthologies on Gypsies (Rehfisch 1975, Salo 1981, 1982) and on regional issues (d. Leshnik & Sontheimer 1975, Misra & Malhotra 1982) do contain chapters on peripatetic communities, no attempt has so far been made to present and compare data on such communities in a cross-cultural perspective. The purpose of this volume is to put together first-hand ethnographic material available on peripatetics, who are the most widely distributed nomadic populations in the world, and to plead for a somewhat broader and more flexible approach in the study of spatial mobility as an adaptive strategy. In this introductory chapter I shall first consider the basic problems which are contained in the concept of peripatetic. I shall then describe some of the features common to all peripatetic societies.




Whil in French anthropology and geography the term nomad and its d rivative have b n applied to all group who employ regular spatial mobility a an n mi strut gy, in th An I -American and German litcn ur riaining 0 th iopi ,th t rms hay been applied prin'il .lIy l< nim.1 husb: n I .rs, but .Is l hunt r and gatherers. In the Illy seven i 'S, h( W 'V', 'on, , . IId1l"()1 ologis s started t I k at th Oil It, lilt! lil~'1 -m l .1 I 01 ex mpl' S. lzrn: n WI'Ol' (I 71: 1 0):
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Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics:

an introduction

certain kinds of resources ... Nomadism could logically be associated with the extraction of any of these or with various combinations ... " Gradually, others too took up this line and nomadism, now no longer confused with say, pastoralism, began to be applied to, for example, "... the spatial arrangements of the Gypsies or Nawar of the Mediterranean ... " (Chatty 1980: 82). Another term often used in the study of human spatial mobility is circulation, which has been defined by Zelinsky (1971: 255-256 in Chapman & Prothero 1985: 1) as "a great variety of movements, usually short-term, repetitive, or cyclic in nature, but all having in common the lack of any declared intention of a permanent or long-lasting change in residence." Commercialism, like pastoralism, is a kind of resource exploitation, the resource in this case being customers with purchasing power - what Berland (1979a: 3) has termed the "human resource base". Whereas the . basic elements of pastoralism are labour, livestock and pasture, those of peripatecism are labour, customers and skills/goods. Posing the question of whether it would be meaningful to classify peripatetics together with pastoral nomads (Leshnik 1975: xv) suggested that while the term nomad be reserved for migrating pastoralists, primarily non-food-producing mobile communities may be termed 'wanderers. arlier, LUlZ 61: 299) had, following Baines (1912: 105), vOCatea-tne distinction between trader, artisan and non-artisan itinerants (see also Salzman 1983). Another term suggested to categorize such itinerant communities is 'non-ecological nomads' (Misra 1978) by way of contrast to pastoral nomads, who are more directly dependent on ecological factors. 'Service nomads', another term proposed by Hayden (1979, see also Hayden thi volume) implies mobile communities who do no wage labour, but sell their services; but this term fails to account for those numerous c mmunities who sell their goods (plus, perhaps incidentally, their service ). Some years ago I myself (Rao 1982a) suggested the term 'non-food-producing nomads', but data now indicate that this would be too r stri rive, since in many parts of the world a group, or a part of a gr up may be food-producing one year, and non-food-producing the n xt. Thi 'ms to be particularly true for Africa (see Chapter 8 thi v IIIm ')i nlth uj.\h for the Middle East (Rao 1983) and ntcrnp rary W stern Ewop., III ' non-food-producing criteri n m t b appli ~I 'l m )SLxu 'II group over very J ng peri ds f ti m . r n kccj i ng with he fa 'I t 11.\ltill' \1(, f d and rvi s Iorms tl 'm.j)rr's(lIr"'I.1\'olth'l'tllllll 'I r lis lI~, ing h r,,' 01 111'I' i l numn I 'i ,wot It 'I 1"1111 11II1III I I III I I, '11 ~lllll' ',1,1 (A toll II H ), Pill III 'p 'I iPII'11I ' I ,I I II III1 \ I

thrown up by Berland (1978, 1979a, 1979b), although others before him (e.g. Srinivas 1955: 10, Rosander 1976: 151) had already used it to refer to such communities. The peripatetic strategy consists basically of combining spatial mobility and non-subsistent commercialism at the economic level with endogamy at the social level. Of various ethnic origins and speaking different languages peripatetics are thus defined as primarily non-food-producing/ extracting, preferentially endogamous, itinerant communities subsisting mainly on the sale of goods and/or more or less specialized services to sedentary and/or nomadic customers (Rao 1985, 1986c). A few may have a little land (Ivan ow 1920: 282), houses (Olesen this volume) or herds (Rauber-Schweizer this volume), and some may even hunt and gather a little (Kosambi 1967: 107, Bollig this volume); but their primary subsistence is derived over long stretches of time from commercialism. The degree of spatial mobility also varies from community to community. Peripatetics as a whole constitute a socio-enonomic category and each community is, in addition, an ethnic unit (see Barth 1969: 10-11), and constitutes a minority wherever it may be. Nomadism of various degrees can now no longer be seen as a response to the physical environment alone, but to the total environment, one aspect of which can be demand and supply. Similarly, circulation of different kinds can no longer be perceived exclusively as the "... interchange of labour between different modes of production ... " (Chapman I & Prothero 1985: 5). Peripatecism, like pastoralism should not be.regard-( ed as a specific mode of production, but rather as a mode of subsistence. Further just as pastoral resource exploitation may take many forms, depending on the physical environment and the animals herded, just as hunters, gatherers and fishers extract a variety of prey and plants, depending on the flora and fauna available, commercialism can also take many forms, and peripatetics in Africa, western Europe and North America are reported as being extremely flexible in adapting their skills to suit hanging requirement. In fa t, even in the most unfavourable cir.urnstance .peripat 'Li s, rn rc p rhap than other itinerant populations, , ppc r g nerally t c tt: in hOI11 st sis whi h has been defined by Krebs (I 78: 622) as, "... rn: intent 11" ( f constnn y ... in ... interaction of in livi Ill, Is in , I ( 11I1 lion () .ommunity under h nging nditi ns, h', LIS' o he ", il ilit i' ",1(1)\111\, ,UljU,'1111 -nts," Mosl f h h. pt r in Ihis v( hi III , di 'II tili ''1l1'lIli Ii IOIIl\ () I' (III" XII i .ci 11 it hiu Iii hlOlll1 111111 I 111\111 \111 III III" 1.1J1Iivvalue Ihi 1111'1 II11I (Iljlll II ,III I II 11I11 ,III II II II ir in 111 'il

Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics: an introduction

chapter, peripatetics "... time .. :' (p. 135).

are generalists ... yet specialize at any given

Maximizing '


and the Optimal



As opposed to pastoral nomads and hunters and gatherers the ideal type of peripatetics obtain their food almost exclusively from and through other human populations (Rao & Casimir 1983, in press) and ~ one important distinction between these different categories of nomads thus lies in the "amount of control they exercise over food resources" (Berland 1977: 86). But like nomadic pastoralists and most hunter-gatherers, peripatetics employ cyclic spatial mobility as a strategy to maximize benefits, and in his chapter in this volume Piasere considers certain peri atetic subsistence activities as a form of gathering (see also Arnold 1980: 1 r:-W a pe;ipa;;tics have inCom'ffioii-with most hunters, gatherers and pastoral nomads is the characteristically patchy distribution of their resources, and the seasonality of resource extraction possibilities. Thus the cycle of migration patterns among peripatetics is as dependent upon their customers' specific demands as the migration of hunter-gatherers is upon the seasonal availability of wild foods, or the herd management routines of nomadic pastoralists upon the patchy and seasonal distribution of pasture and water resources. Hunter-gatherers procure various plant material and animals at specific times of the year, and many peripatetic communities obtain compensation at fixed time of the year for goods and services in seasonal demand. In recent years anthropologists have increasingly discussed th usefulness of the optimal foraging theory, drawn from ecological studi to ask if and how given communities having for example, patchily distributed resources exploit them optimally. "The models of optimal foraging theory ... analyze foraging strategies as the joint product of environmental and behavioral "givens" (constraints) and the goals and choices exhibited by foragers attempting to maximize the benefits obtained per unit foraging time:' (Smith 1983: 47). Applied to peripatetic, this model would mean that in an environment where resour e are attered unevenly, benefits can be maximized nly if the n t r turn g, in d can counterbalance the H rt mad ( .. n rgy xp nd d) I y rninirnizin th tim p nt in vi i i ng di If r n u: t '11' I tel In rn I" ncr l' 'rl1lS, this inv Iv s hi till Ih ,nil" 1111111 I I hr d mnn I 1\ I 1111111 i"l r v I of I h !ill I ut (hi II I III (\I 111111 I ,

and in fact, peripatetics follow the cycle of the primary resources of their own resources, i.e., the agricultural and/or pastoral cycles of their customers. Thus Berland has shown (1982: 80-81) how the mobility of the peripatetic Kanjar and Qalandar of Pakistan attain peaks during and shortly after the spring and autumn harvests (d. also Berland this volume). Similarly, the Sheikh Mohammadi and the Ghorbat of Afghanistan sell their winnowing fans and sieves respectively (Olesen this volume and Rao 1979, 1981, 1982b, 1986b) in time for the harve t and the visits of the Gaduliya Lohar of northern India coincide with specific agricultural activities of their peasant customers (Misra 1965). In other contexts the peripatetic migration cycle depends on vari u ecological parameters (R.M. Hayden 1981) and while the income peak of the Xoraxane Rom depend on the local ritual calendar (Piasere chi volume), Gmelch and Gmelch describe in their chapter how the rnigration patterns of Irish Travellers are largely determined by occupati nol possibilities. In its most idealized form the peripatetic strategy thus tends tow I" one end of a non-food-producing - food-producing/extracting n tinuurn, the other end being exemplified by a self-subsistent p , n community. Similarly if mobility and sedentism are viewed a, ntinuum, it is clear that peripatetics along with mobile animal hub nd rs and hunter-gatherers tend towards the mobile end. Figure 1 h w ~w dimensional model, where the degree of mobility and the ext nt f f I. production/extraction are taken to represent the two axes m t r J vr n t( the definition of a peripatetic community a distinct fr m th r in nomic categories. Many of the chapter in this anth J y will sh )w that these categories are not alway di ret and th: t th y ar fl n he 1'1 lived. In orne parts of th w rId th y ar , h w v r, m r di "1"'1' ru] or 1 nger duration than in ther j at rt in p ri d in his ry hey 11 m r in flux than in th r. M r inter 'iv r arcl in tip i lls 01 PI' hist ry, human I gy nd s ici I nnthrc p I gy is n ,.J.J i h diffcrcn s and variati ns,rwlxll.inl.l,grwihMi'h,ll\olli (this volume: h. 8) wh '/1 he slIgl' 'sts tlu I il has I "11 l1lis 1\1< to 'nil -idcr )( J-I r luc ion, 11 I Il( n-Io: I-I rorlu 'lioll, 11101 ilily ,nd sd '"d III, ndof;. my, I1d 'X g. III ,~ li.t!1 I pili,'s, I,ItlWI dU11l ,1 -onrinu 11011
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6 Aparna Rao The concept of peripatetics: an introduction 7


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(d. B. Hayden 1981: 346) or as peripatetics who also hunt and gather (d. also Bollig this volume)? Likewise would it not be more apt to classify the Pohol of Kashmir (Uhlig 1973, Rao & Casimir 1985) as

a )(

peripatetic herdsmen and certain caravaneers in northern Africa as peripatetic traders? In practice this remains a moot point, although theoretically the primary subsistence resource at any given point of time can be taken as a criterion of definition and distinction.


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G e n e r i c T e r m s, E t h n i c Cat ego r i e san d Sub s i s ten c e For m s Primarily non-food-producing/food-extracting, nomadic, endogamous communities all over the world tend generally to be lumped together and labelled as 'Gypsies' or vagrants. In non-European contexts there are other generic terms used, such as '[at' in Afghanistan (Rao 1979, 1981, 1986a, in press a), 'hwach' ok chaein' in Korea (Nemeth this volume), 'nyamakala' among the Bambara, or 'nyeenyBe' among the Peul (Bollig this volume). I have suggested elsewhere (Rao in press b) that these terms often represent folk models of specific ethnic categories; but the anthropologist must also be aware that such terms are not only loaded, they are vague and often incorrect. Not all 'Gypsies' are nomadic and not all non-pastoral and non-hunting-gathering nomads are 'Gypsies'. In "urope many of these communities rarely identify with 'Gypsies', nor c re they accepted as such by the latter. Some, but not all so-called Gypsie can be classified along with peripatetics, not in terms of ethnic or I. nguage traits, but in terms of their subsistence strategies. In Asia and n rthern Africa (d. also Bollig this volume) diverse peripatetic communities have often been categorized by scientists as 'Gypsies' or , yp y-like', by reason of their itinerancy, their traditional professions, Ih 'i r languages - which although not Romany are often distinct from I h( sc of the surrounding populations (Rao 1985, in press c) - and above ,111, p rhap th ir at least appar nt ocial marginality in their local con-

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Fig. 1 Two dimensional model of socio-economic categories which are determined by the degree of mobility and the extent of food production, or extraction. Each of these ideal categories approaches a specific corner of the squar P = peripatetics; SC = sedentary commercialists; HG or PN - huntersgatherers or pastoral nomads. The model hows that none f these at g ri is discrete and that an infinite range of 'mix d' at g ri s xists, th pr p rti 11 f thi mixtur dep nding n n' p iti 11in ch qu: r Any h. n in psi. ti n ,I ng ith r (th, wo : xe impli -, rn jo '" minor h nil' in th -11\, si i 'tol' - WHO!' ,

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Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics:

an introduction

with any recurring economic, cultural or seasonal factors. All empirical data now available on the migration patterns of peripatetics show, however, that their mobility is regular and closely linked to easily identifiable and fixed parameters. The second characteristic of 'vagrancy' appears to be the lack of a place to live in, a home in the widest sense of the word. Peripatetics, however, have "a place to sleep in", be it their tents, wagons, carts, caravans or huts, or in case only a part of the family is mobile, their houses. The third feature of 'vagrancy' concerns occupation and profession: 'vagrants' have no precise occupations, no fixed sources of subsistence. Although economic adaptability is valued among some peripatetic communities, each group has at least one if not several (eventually sex-specific) professions, which are more or less specialized. Finally, it should be noted that 'vagrants' in any given area would not form an endogamous community, though they could form a gene pool. Peripatetics are, on the contrary, endogamous, and endogamy is one of the characteristics also marking them off against itinerant salesmen, individual pedlars, hawkers, etc. In fact, one could go even further and affirm that each peripatetic community represents a 'subsociety', as opposed to a 'subculture' (Fine & Kleinman 1979).


and the Greater


Each peripatetic community is in its cultural environment a minority . ethnic group, and very often it is of a different ethnic origin from its customers. Even when this is not the case, however, peripatetics are often ) regarded as "foreigners", and this contributes partially to their social marginality. Barth (1969: 29) noted that "... ethnic membership is at once a question of ... origin as well as of current identity:' Now, current professional identity is a part of current social identity and the social marginality of a peripatetic community can thus be linked both to its alleged origins as well as to its current identity, itself largely influenced by the professional activities of its members. In many societies the moral or religious ideologies of the customers result in certain professions being despised, even though frequently, these professions are extremely important. Such ideologies deeply affected the ial tatus f m st peripatetic in th ur p n Middl A (. n I r 1 7 ). 10 I i v lurn nvid N In th's ] rm n in h WI' il t Ii nw Iw rk r w r o'i II de I i 1 I II B I Ilhi II III 11 rll (II I 11111 (n I orl I il/dl II I I 11\ I 1111 nd II ('Ii lil'I/VI (I hll I II I It I


Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics: an introduction


and rain-makers on the other (Bollig this volume). The peripatetic tinkers of the Sahara (Briggs 1960: 71) and the peripatetics living among the nomadic pastoral Iranian tribes of Fars (Amanolahi 1978: 15) write charms and amulets, caste spells, perform marriages and carryon religious ceremonies. In Turkey, wrote Garnett (1891: Vol. II p. 361) peripatetic "... women are the witches par excellence, and on this account ... as much feared by the ... populace as ... detested and despised." In northern Afghanistan sedentists believe that the peripatetic Jogi, quacks and fortune-tellers eat corpses and practice black magic (Rao 1982b: 31, 1986a). Peripatetics are thus despised, yet feared. This apparent contradiction stems at least partially from the inherent contradiction in most societies between social and economic necessity and political authority and order (Rao 1985: 99); the fate of the Skomoroxi, peripatetic Russian minstrels (Zguta 1978, Voorheis 1982: 114-115) exemplifies this contradiction. Similarly, as Loeb (1977: 96) writes, "the occupations of peddler ... imply considerable face-to-face interaction with diverse elements of the population. People engaged in these activities are therefore in a position to exchange information with a wide variety of social groups and thus may be said to perform the task of communicator or disseminator of ideas. According to Sjoberg (1960: 135-137), it is because of this extra-occupational role that such vocations were viewed with suspicion by the elite in feudal autocratic preindustrial societies .... Since the above mentioned vocations were deemed necessary for economic reasons, it was advantageous to the authorities to have them filled by people who were not taken seriously by the populace. Outcaste groups, ridiculed and segregated, served this function well .. :' In their chapters on 'Gypsies' in Europe both Kaminski and Liegeois show clearly how these principles were and are applicable in industrialized societies as well. Table I Set of complementary oppositions between peripatetics and their host societies.

tion peripatetics entertain with their host societies, but also to numerous other groups, such as smiths in very many cultures, women in certain communities and~ groups in certain contexts (d. Goldberg 1978), i~ fact to all groups :,,)o~. ~e ;,ese~t p~ibilities forbidden by the reality of the .. ~SO'Clal structure (Lindholm 1981: 521). Some cnapt;;;in this-volume raise these issues and explain how the combination of a low socio-political status and high ritual status function in reality.







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PERIPATETICS Marginal Wild Nature Disorder Neutral Power An my '( ( )11


HOST SOCIETY Mainstream Tame Culture Order Parti an

Aurh rity Lawfulness

Since there are few systematic studies of peripatetics very little has been reported till now about the roles they play and the place(s) th y occupy in the structural relations of general interaction among differ nt communities, Can one legitimately consider the 'peripatetic niche' ( f. Berland 1978, 1979a, 1979b) as unique, or does it vary with the gr up, and consequently also with its environment (d. in this volum th chapters by Salo, Bollig and Casimir, also Rao in press a? Peri pat ti ' have very often been dubbed parasites and predators (e.g. Bain 1 1 : 109, Barth 1975: 286, Fisher 1981: 64, Berland 1982: 76-77). Thi implies that peripatetics prey on their hosts. The basic point at que ri n is therefore, 'Do eri atetics fulfill economic and/or social need f th ' larger society?' To ascertain this, an examination of both the r I wI i h peripatetics play within the social fabric at any given point f tim " s well as the rewards (direct and indirect, immediate and longterm) whih are allocated to them as incumbents of these role is required, Th n. tur of both roles and rewards depends largely on the level f dev I pm 'lit of the forces of production, but i al 0 cl sely link d t the id I gi 1 base, the norms and values of the p ifi ntext. Th at I c t r ppr r 'Ill ly ambiguou nature f r lati ns bciw n p ripat ti an I their customers further mpli at chi, iss I', An examinati 11 f th Lt. LV. il. II sh< ws lh. I , .rip: l uic 'Olll muniti s pI y vari II roles in rh ' lives 0 Ih ' S Irroundinl-l soi 'li '.'j th ' hapt r y R ubcr- .hw 'iz -r, Iloilil'. 1..111"1~( 'I 1..111 "lSt .r, JI1~'ljU and i" rc I rovi I tOOlI 'x. Illi I 01 I h I () iill vru ill! ion III I ,,1111'

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Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics:

an introduction


tions to the subject. It appears that the higher and the more constant the rates of exchange, the greater the degree of specialization within the peripatetic community. Hence, if each peripatetic community is considered as committed to its own specialized means of production, as distinct from other peripatetic communities exploiting the same resources, it may be considered as occupying a specific niche of its own. On the other hand, considered as committed to a specialized mode for subsistence - commercialism - all peripatetics as opposed to say all patoral nomads, shifting cultivators, etc., may be judged as occupying .the specific niche of mobile communities offering their goods and services for sale. Since the concept of need is culture specific, and must vary diachronically, I suggest that parasitism and symbiosis should be viewed as lying on a scale along which the interacting agents need each other to varying degrees; the nature of the interaction is situated on a continuum between near symbiosis and near parasitism. Most of the cases lie somewhere in between these two extremes and their position shifts according to various factors.

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The overall political context of interaction between peripatetics and their neighbours is comparable to a 'dependency chain' (Van den Berghe 1975: 73 -75), with the peripatetic always occupying the weaker end of this chain. Within this broad context two patterns of economic and political interaction emerge between peripatetics and their customers: they may be termed contiguity and attachment. It is doubtful whether there are, especially in non-industrial societies, peripatetics who are neither contiguous, nor attached to their customers. Peripatetics may be said to be con t i g u 0 u s to their customers when they live primarily independently, but visit their customers at more or less regular intervals. Attachment, on the other hand, may be ob erved when peripatetics live with a given group of customers and w rk primarily, if not exclusively for them. In a contigu us ituati n peripatetics may thus be economically dependent n vari u lu t r f customer, wherea when th yar t h d t h ir ust m rs, h y r

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The customers of a given peripatetic community may consist entirely of sedentary townspeople and/or villagers, or entirely of pastoral nomads, or again of a combination of the three in varying proportions. Purely hunter-gatherer customers are rare, the only instance known to me being that of the Bavarlof Central India (Baines 1912: 105). By and large while contiguity seems the form of interaction most commonly encountered between peripatetics and sedentist customers, attachment appears frequent with pastoral groups; it is thus no coincidence that the two papers in this volume about peripatetics attached to their customers deal with pastoral contexts (Lancaster & Lancaster and Casajus). While a very large number of pastoral groups in North Africa, Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Baluchistan have at least one peripatetic group living with them, in some cases (Barth 1961: 92, Ehmann 1974: 144, Amanolahi 1978) the nature of the interaction is intermediate between attachment and contiguity, with the peripatetics also having sedentary rural customers. Peripatetic Anne musicians in Niger, originally having only sedentary farmer patrons are now also turning to patrons among Fulani and Bugaje pastoral nomads (Erlmann 1981: 74). Peripatetics are compensated by their customers, immediately or over longer periods of time in cash, kind or services (see Fig. 2). The nature of the compensation is obviously correlated with the customers' socioeconomic conditions, and generally urban customers tend to give cash or food immediately while rural sedentists and pastoralists tend to compensate more in kind and/or services, sometimes immediately, but more often on a long term basis. Compensation in kind consists primarily of foodstuffs, but also of fodder for pack animals, old clothes, shoes, etc. The foodstuffs received are consumed immediately and when there is a surplus it is either stored to be consumed later (Misra 1965: 168, Rao 1982b) or at least partly sold at a profit (Berland 1982: 81, Rao & Casimir 1983, in press). In her chapter Olesen describes this barter system at length, and shows how barter affects the internal economic organization of the Sheikh Mohammadi of Afghanistan. Compensati n in services rendered by customer groups or individuals nits mainly, if n t wh lly, of granting direct or indirect political patr nag. Th [orrn f thi p tr nag varie a cording to whether hut rn rs rc scdcnu y r n madi .nnd al rding t th s cin rnic strucru ) t hci own s -jt.WI1l1 h scdcntisc .nd I. t I Il10m I I \I I 111'1 I I \ I I i, I'li ouuuunity, this I liti '.1 I III II ~ j I II I I d III, il II III, I I' I II I n 11111 I , Willi I III 11 I I it! Iii I. II I I IltlvlIl \I ill III II II" I I 1111 \ 1111111" II 1\ iv! I



Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics:

an introduction


count of such patronage accorded to peripatetics by the Rwala Bedouin. Political patronage and protection may also be granted to contiguou peripatetics, in addition to cash and/or kind. This provides them with security, especially in their movements within their patron's domain, and allows them accessto all potential customers within this domain (se Rauber-Schweizer, this volume). Since protection involves the presen of a power block, it may incidentally also help them resolve certain administrative problems, thanks to their patron's access to the regional elit network. Thus, peripatetic Tinkers in Dublin establish durable relati nships with given housewives who act as mediators between them and th rest of Irish society (Gmelch & Gmelch 1978:449), and sedentist worn n in semiurban Afghanistan also helped the peripatetic Ghorbat in simil. r if somewhat more indirect fashion (Rao 1982b).


and the Constraints

of Demand




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The concept of peripatetics: an introduction


Aparna Rao


of goods, services and labour to a host economy where demand is irregular in time and place" (Okely 1975: 114). Predictability and frequency of demand for goods and services offered by peripatetics are what determines their existence and viability in a given area (Fig. 3). The demand for new, or repaired agricultural and household implements, ritual services, etc., may be classified as highly predictable since the activities of the customers for which these goods and services are required tend to be seasonal, annual, etc. The frequency of demand is thus determined by the more or less long gaps between the periods of demand. Durability and price also influence the frequency of demand. The higher the durability of an object, the lower the frequency of demand in absolute terms. Generally, also the higher the price the remoter the chances that the customer will be prepared to buy the' product often. Thus, in rural or urban centres itinerant pedlars and artisans often manage very well in spite of stiff competition from sedentists, simply because they keep their prices low. In remoter areas, however, they may do good business in spite of their high prices. On the whole, the lower the frequency of demand the greater the mobility of the peripatetic community must be, since a larger potential customer population must be reached by wider ranging migration circuits. The demand for the services of the peripatetic fortune - teller, quack, prostitute, musician (except for ceremonial occasions) and entertainers generally, may be difficult to predict. A latent demand is always present for these services and it has seasonal or other cyclic periods of intensity. But this demand is not universal and thus, the lower the predictability the larger the total potential customer population required to sustain a given peripatetic population. In their chapter here Gmelch and Gmelch postulate that the movements of peripatetic Gypsies and Travellers in England and Wales are more frequent and less predictable than those of most nomadic pastoral peoples and hunters and gatherers. Referring to the relations between peripatetics and their customers some writers have termed peripatetics 'castes' or 'clients' (Toupet 1963, Van Bruinessen 1978: 140, Bollig this volume). Digard (1978: 44-45), like others before him asks whether, in the absence of a caste system in the region, peripatetics can be legitimately called ca tes, or wh th r it would be more appropriate to peak f a patr nodi nt syse m rnplementary tala i ty. Th pr upp iti n f", t i ' I gy ... tha h pnmiion bcrwccn narncd ,rsis.lS>lul'.nlil1ll'i'l,i (L. .h 171: 7) i , Iii lly, I ut n: I 'IHi, I "li . 11 II II, dill Ii ( 11\ llll IIIi Ii , lo v,, iI I III I III d III I III I "I II ti III I III Ii



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Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics: an introduction


to their customers entertain jajmani-type relations with them, jajmani being defined as "... durable relations ... essentially those between a food-producing family and the families that supply them with goods and services ... " (Mandelbaum 1972: 161). Even between peripatetics and their contiguous customers, relations may be analogous to those of jajmani (Hayden this volume, Misra 1969, Berland 1982: 81, Wiser 1969: 43-44), although even in India they may not always be recognized as such, especially since a group must reside in a given village in order to be officially part of this system (Wiser 1969: 44). Data on the migration patterns of contiguous peripatetics also show clearly that not only are their migration circuits fairly strict, but also that they are territorially organized and that these territories and thus the customers are quite strictly inherited within fixed social units (d. Rao 1982b, in press a). . Leonardo Piasere's chapter on the Xoraxane contains a very interesting discussion on the topic of territoriality among peripatetics.



of Survival

this is a common phenomenon in many parts of Africa (Bollig t~is volume) and in South Asia (Ryan 1953: 142, Childers 1975: 247, Kurian & Bhanu 1980 Berland 1982: 62-63; see also R.M. Hayden 1981). However even' when the language of the peripatetics is basically the same as that of their clients and customers, and thus intel,ligible to t~e latter, a tendency to use a different lingo among themselv~s ISnoted. ~hls tongue can be either 'real' or 'artificia~'; the Adurgan, of the Sh~lkh Mohammadi of Afghanistan (Olesen this volume, Ra~ III ~r~ss c) IS an example of the latter. Whether 'real' or 'a~tificial.', the lIngUIstIc. purpose achieved is that of a 'secret language' and III fact It appears that III Egypt rotani, the language of some peripatetic groups, literally means '~ecret language' (Weber 1986). In some parts of the world the vocabulan~s of these 'secret languages' are a remarkable mixture d~awn from vanous languages, including Romany (Rosander 1976: 156, ?Igar~, 19~8: 46,-:47; Lerch 1981), and in the Middle East these vocabulanes are ... g~~slfled . .. (by) the addition of various suffixes ... (the) t:ansposmon of syllables, etc," (Ivan ow 1922: 375). In his chapter CasaJ~s. reports th~t the secret language of the Inadan is also formed by the addition of certain prefixes and suffixes (d. also Bollig this volume): .' Peripatetics often boost their self esteem and prestige by ref~rnng to kinihip ties or other (even negative) r~lat~onships tO,an legend: ry, religious or secular personality Important III t~elr locality. Thus while some 'Gypsy' legends mention the vague part their ancestors played in the crucifixion of Christ, the Gaine of Nepal (Helffer 1977: 51), and h Ramosis of western India (Schlaginrweit 1884: 72) claim respectively Ih andharvas and Rama of Hindu mythology as their ancestors. The Mid an of Somalia claim descent from Dir, generally regarded as the , Id st mali stock (Goldsmith & Lewis 1958: 189) and the Ghorbat ,?f Afgh, ni tan trace de cent from the assanian monarch Key Kayhan (It 1 82b: 41f'). In her chapter Asta I sen, a!so m,entions that the Sh .ikh M hammadi laim a 1 ally r p t d rchgl u fIgure as ancesto~, lnt! lif~ r nt ti ns of th rnrnunity v n disput the de~r e f punt o this I 'S' nt, Also orniniquc s jus r ports cI at while m In,ld, n I,im he Prophet r avid ns ih .ir : 11"St r, ihcrs onsi I r tl t ,11

Given their generally precarious social situation in the macro-society, peripatetics have to resort to strategies of self-conservation and develop methods to boost their self-esteem (d. Casimir this volume). Nomadism and frequent fission of residence units/camps appears to be one fairly common method resorted to when internal conflict situations arise (d. Gmelch & Gmelch this volume and Berland this volume); but this is not specific to peripatetics. Among peripatetics the use of self-imposed ethnic markers separating them from the surrounding populations appears to be characteristic. These self-imposed markers must be clearly distinguished from markers which are of great significance for non-group members (d. Rao in press b) but may be of little symbolic value for group members. Language, genealogy and religion in order of importance are the most common markers within the group, and in certain societies language and religion can also be important markers for non-group members. The use of a means of linguistic communication which ~s ent.irely ,i~telligible only among group members, and at be t only partially intelligible to non-members is the commonest pr tective devic mpl yed by \ peripatetics. Originally, uch a 'languag , rnt y n t hay rv d ih purp F a mark r, but mnny nt m I. Y I rip, t nics 10 ns i usly use i in his rnanncrEvcn within rh me 'Olllill 1\1(111 ol'illil,lillH (I( 111 ell' linlllli Ii' 11 n m liv '1111 I IIIif 1.111in C I" I linllti Ii I 'Idoll I


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Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics:

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dingly dress like Sayyeds and perform rituals normally performed by the latter alone (Amanolahi 1978: 15). In his chapter Michael Casimir discusses at length the legends of origin of several peripatetic groups and suggests that these legends reflect the hardship of their way of life and serve, simultaneously to reduce psychological stress. Finally, many peripatetics have a distinctive religion or weltanschauung, which acts as a basic ideology for the community, and in its own eyes renders it morally superior to all its neighbours. The rigid purity and pollution ideology of some peripatetic 'Gypsies' is an excellent example of this phenomenon; similarly in certain Islamic societies peripatetics are Shias, whereas the majority of the sedentists are Sunnis. In his chapter Kaminski examines the use of taboo concepts by 'Gypsies' in their resistance to cultural assimilation and the chapter on the Tahtaci . of Turkey shows how their belief system protects them against cultural absorption.

beggars (Beckingham & Huntingford 1954: 126). For centuries Europe also has known mobile communities of artisans, pedlars, entertainers and the like (e.g. Ave-Lallernant 1858, Arnold 1980, Gunda 1981, Irsigler & Lassotta 1984), many of whom were endogamous; from the 15th century onwards, 'Gypsies' could be added to this list, although many got





of Peripatetics

The sparse references available in historical records enable one to deduce the existence of itinerant communities selling their goods and services in many parts of the world from early times (Bliimner 1918, Gaheis 1927). Jacobson (1975: 88) has suggested that the rock shelters of Central India dating from between the 6th and 1st centuries B.C. may have been inhabited or visited by nomadic smiths. Ancient Japan had itinerant artisans, travelling showmen, etc. (Ninomiya 1933: 75-77), and in his chapter David Nemeth cites evidence for such communities in ancient Korea too. It is also known that travelling entertainers were part of the ancient Indian scene (Basham 1954: 209-210, Berland this volume) and in medieval India trade was partly in the hands of peripatetics (Thapar 1966: 295). The Sassanian monarch Bahram Gur is supposed to have first imported musicians and dancers into Iran and then banished them, so that they became itinerant (d. Dehhoda 1330 HS). De Planhol (1966: 278) ha argued for the existence in Central Asia also of itinerant artisan ca t prior to the Genghis Khan era. References are al ~ und to itin rant mmunities of entertainers and arti an in Afri a; f r x m pl in th arly 16th century Le Afri anu m nti 11 d 'll h n munitic, uth f h Ada M Lint, in wh lid t th ir g ne I g I ,I I w hUll I, I

sedentarized fairly early. Little empirical data is available about the evolution and development ')'i . of peripatetic communities, but it appears that many contemporary peripatetics evolved from hunter-gatherers, or nomadic pastoralists, while \ some were peasants or sedentist craftsmen. The change over from a primarily hunter-gatherer subsistence to a primarily peripatetic one appears to have taken place either when the hunter-gatherers were pushed into marginal areas where resources were too low, by expansionist peasants or pastoral nomads (Bacon 1954: 48, Bose 1956, Adhikari 1974), or when hunters and gatherers gradually grew unable to depend on uni-resource ubsistence, largely because of deforestation (Bhowmick 1973 in Gupta 1976). Some peripatetics were originally pastoral nomads (see Bollig, Roux this volume), but turned to a peripatetic way of life either because they I st their herds and pastures as an aftermath of war (Doughty 1888), or due to progressive impoverishment caused for example in Mongolia by xcessive interest paid to moneylenders (Legrand, pers. comm.). ContemP rary Waata in East Africa are an example of a peripatetic group many r whose members try and become pastoral to join the Boran, while thers settle and become urban merchants (Legesse, pers. comm.). ther data point towards a peasant origin (d. Berland this volume) ( r p ripatetics whose ancestors were driven from their lands by agressors (I ughty 1888) or because sudden, and perhaps recurring catastrophies, 1I .h famines and earthquakes led to hunger and destitution, and finalI t p ripatetic way of life (Crooke 1888: 69, Berland 1982: 75). FinalI , s m peripatetics may have originally been sedentary artisans (de 1'1.11 h I 1966: 279). Invading armies who brought artisans along with I h '111 ort n 1 ft th m b hind when they left (see Nemeth this volume); W \I 1st r ught in its wake destruction of the infrastructure and sedenI II ar is. ns s m tirn b ame refugees unable to settle anywhere in the 1111t~ run ( . w r I J97 ,R. 1 2b). It i further likely that certain II Iii tctic 111 mun I I arc h ut m findividual getting together I," vII i liS In, ,I l th n buildi: UI. n w mrnuniry, Arnold I'HO hi \IH't lilt i in 1'1111 i ibe nl ch hi yy r'war


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Aparna Rao

The concept of peripatetics: an introduction


divi?ual 'Gypsies' - evolved to form what are today known as the yemsh (d. Lerch 1981). It does seem certain that by the late 15th century in parts of Germany peripatetic "... Musiker gerieten immer sehr leicht in Verdacht kriminell zu sein oder mit zwielichtigen Elementen Verbindungen zu haben .. ." (Irsigler & Lassotta 1984: 136). In contemporary Hausaland, the Yan Goge who are peripatetic musicians and actors are also an example of this development (Olofson 1980). In a somewhat similar fashion D~vid Nemeth uses the theory of riverine migrancy to suggest some possible ways for the evolution of peripatetics in Korea and elsewhere. On. th: :vhole disastrous events encouraged, or even obliged groups and. md~vId~als having various, subsistence activities to adopt a peripatetic life style (Tab. II). Existing prejudices, write Irsigler and Lassotta (1984: 13) were reinforced in Europe in the Middle Ages by

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to the emergence of peripatetics; similar pressures are now leading to great changes in the lives of contemporary peripatetics. The chapters in this book discuss these changes and show that they are far from uniform. Michael Bollig provides several different examples in his chapter, and while the progressive modernization of Afghanistan may lead to the ultimate sedentarization of the Sheikh Mohammadi there (Olesen this volume), in better years the Humli Khyampa of Nepal prefer to abandon the little farming they sometimes have to resort to and again become fully peripatetic traders (Rauber-Schweizer this volume). The strategies peripatetics employ as responses to overall contexts of change consist of either diversifying their niches - and the chapters by Rauber-Schweizer, Salo, Piasere and Bollig illustrate this - or of becoming sedentarized and hence abandoning the peripatetic way of life. The aim of this introductory chapter has been to provide a review of existing knowledge about peripatetics and to indicate issues relevant to the study of peripatetics as well as to mobility and marginality in general. The aim of the following chapters is to present a sample of current anthropological perspectives in the study of peripatetics. Four of these chapters deal specifically with peripatetic 'Gypsies' in Europe and North America. There has been, in recent years, an increasing number of publications on 'Gypsies', whether peripatetic or not, but these chapters here represent the first attempt to examine the specific features of the economy and society of 'Gypsies' who are still peripatetic, and to consider this data in the context of general peripatetic strategies. Four ther chapters consider individual peripatetic communities in southern Asia, while the rest cover peripatetics in other parts of the world. The stress on South Asia stems from the practical availability of recent empirical material on peripatetics there. Many themes referred to in this introduction appear in the following .hapters, and patterns of interaction between peripatetics and others is a ntral theme. There is a certain amount of overlapping between the t w sc tions of the anthology and only two broad perspectives on p .rip: t ti s are pres nted here, but then this book is not intended to be the d finitiv w rl n p rip t ti . It is rather, an exploratory volume III I it is h p d th t it will J 'Ld new thinking and m r re earch on tl. reuics '11l11( II '1.1 iou 11( IH die I opulnti: ns n: w 1\ n the (IH1I1f ill!, 11tt 'III )1 int I I ti( 11 I tot (I 11 l"lIlIil1 db" II ( pul: ti I1S. 11 I

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The concept of peripatetics: an introduction


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