Widening Conversational Scope: The Meaty Bits

[cont’d from Widening Conversational Scope: the Preamble]

Let’s look at a description of the kris, according to authors Walter Weyrauch and  Maureen Anne Bell:

…In all cases, it is the aggrieved party that must request the kris…the elders of the tribes then hold a meeting and select one or more men to act as judges…the senior judge is surrounded by the members of the kris council, who act as associate judges…Generally, five or more men from both sids, usually the elders, form the council. In the United States, the council may have as many as twenty-five members…It is now acceptable, if unusual, to have the entire family present for support…When members of the audience think the witness is not being truthful or responsive, they hiss or make jokes. In some delicate matters, such as adultery, the public and witnesses can be excluded. At a kris, only Romany may be spoken, and participants discourage lapses into English by shouting and hissing…

The scope narrows!

…Furthermore, arguments are often presented in a special oratory that differs grammatically from ordinary Romany and resembles a legal jargon…

The scope narrows even more! Learning a special oratory presents a major speedbump to participation.

…Witnesses may speak freely about the case, for the Gypsies believe there can be no justice without hearing the matter out to its fullest. Exaggerated claims and ornate stories referring to folktales and mythology are common….

Of course my ears perk up at that part. Also notice that suddenly, the scope has begun to widen.

…the parties or their spokesmen may speak freely and at length about their grievances. Similarly, the witnesses may present their testimony colorfully and expansively. In short, they may refer to past events, use exaggerations, and try to gain the favor of the judges and the audience. The presentation of facts does not focus on clarifying a single issue…the gypsies appear to be concerned primarily with the presntation of a complete picture of events and evidence, even at the expense of what non-Gypsies might call due process and the rights of the individual. The litigants air their grievances before representatives of a tightly knit group who will most likely be very familiar with every aspect of their lives. Audience members come from the same community as the parties, and thus follow the proceedings with an intense sense of  participation and a strong desire that jsutice be done. This attitude may lead to spontaneous offers of testimony, as well as expressions of approval or disapproval from the audience…Participation by the audience is expected and encouraged by custom. Members of the audience, although not formally called as witnesses, may feel justified in expressing views. Whether their contribution to the proceedings is based on personal observation or opinion does not matter…

And it widens some more!

Because the Roma narrow the scope of partipants (who may attend the proceedings), they can then widen the scope of information exchange. They can create a community conversation that works:

…The vindication of individuals’ rights, as understood in a non-Gypsy context, is not of the utmost significance in a Gypsy kris. Instead, the reestablishment of peace in the group is the proceeding’s prime objective…Individuals will view themslves as members of a larger group that has been treated in accordance with the law, even if they lose the case. A feeling that justice has prevailed pervades…

Of course, if ‘losing a case’ means you come into accord with your neighbors, then you have actually won it, from a systems/community point of view. You may not have gotten what you wanted to begin with, but you got what you needed in the end.

Written by Willem