Catalina Tesar

Grant Type

Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

National Museum of the Romanian Peasant

Grant number

Gr. 9390

Approve Date

October 18, 2016

Project Title

Tesar, Dr. Catalina Constantina, National Museum of the Romanian Peasant, Bucharest, Romania - To aid filmmaking on 'Taxtaja thaj Tokmeala: Invisible Chalices and Conspicuous Marriages' - Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship

Preliminary abstract: The Romanian Gypsy population of Cortorari keep to conspicuously arranging their children’s marriages despite repeated attempts at national and European level to eradicate the practice. Contrary to folk and policy-makers’ representations of Roma marriages as cursory alliances enforced by adults on pubescent children ensuing in premature sexual intercourse, Cortorari experience their marriages (tokmeala) as composite processes unfolding over many years, which revolve around the whimsical fastening and unfastening of marital ties, the performance of gender subjectivities, the ongoing tensions between sameness and difference, and the continuous negotiation of the cash ‘dowry’. Despite their performativity and negotiability, marriages hinge nonetheless on a time-scale far longer than the individual human life, which underscores generational reproduction rooted in more or less imaginary ancestries. In the center of marriages stand some material items, chalices (taxtaja), which were bequeathed to Cortorari men by their forebears and which circulate both as family heirlooms and as ceremonial wealth. Though they are tucked away in the granaries of Romanian peasants, chalices are ubiquitous in people’s wrangles and exert an agency of their own over people’s current actions. Subject to individual claims and assertions, the possession of chalices secures Cortorari’s life world, permanence and immutability. This film pries into the economic, social and symbolic meanings of chalices and into their centrality to marriages. It does so by counterpointing the unperturbed daily lived experience of the marriage process in two families who exchanged girls, to ritual sequences of wrangles, streets brawls and marriage arrangements that all revolve around the monetary and other values of chalices.