“A Stroll in Heavy Boots”: Studying Polish Roma Women's Experiences of Aging
In Poland, the quality of life for Roma minorities has deteriorated in recent years due to negative stereotyping, economic crises and resurgent nationalisms. Consequently, many Roma have migrated to the west since Poland's 2004 entry into the EU. This has left several of Poland's Roma communities populated primarily by Roma elders unable to travel abroad due to their advanced age and/or poor health. This paper discusses the author's current research project that studies Polish elderly Roma women's experiences of ageing in the absence of younger relatives. In particular, the author explores the impact of the diverse attributes of non-public, non-collective dramatic storytelling on how the women constructed their narratives of ageing in the project. The author also considers the potential of dramatic storytelling sessions in relation to interviews, and explores how the two methodologies employed —intersecting with participant project goals and my own complicated local/global positionalities – shaped how the women constructed their stories.
Keywords: performance ethnography, dramatic storytelling, the Roma people, aging, liminality