MuWi Aktuell

Upre!: Gender, Sexuality, and Social Change in Romani Performance

Dr. Petra Gelbart

December 2, 2020, 14:00 (Online)


The position of women in Romani societies has defied the narratives of uninitiated feminist scholars, although most female activists and performers would agree that a great deal of work has yet to be done on this front. By contrast, the historiography of Romani LGBTQ individuals is much simpler: with the exception of certain Balkan musicians, their open existence was hardly ever acknowledged or tolerated in their communities. It is therefore remarkable that the past ten or twenty years have witnessed the wide acceptance of multiple Romani performers who are gay, eschew traditional gender presentations, or both. I will give examples of several musicians and actors across Europe who are at the vanguard of Romani feminist and Queer movements, both formal and informal. The complexity of how their work is received mirrors the inherent difficulty of making any generalizations about the position of Romani women and sexual minorities. Indeed, I argue that the web of in-group ideologies surrounding LGBTQ Roma and Romani women makes it impossible to analyse Roma as separate from majority societies in this regard.

Dr. Petra Gelbart

Dr. Petra Gelbart is a Czech-Romani educator, musician, and activist. She earned her PhD in ethnomusicology from Harvard University in 2010, and a Master's in music psychotherapy from Molloy College in 2016. She splits her time between teaching, documenting or participating in Romani cultural trends, and practicing music therapy. She is currently teaching at Ramapo College of New Jersey while living in Prague.