Gypsy Territoriality and the Ofisa Shell Game

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Chohaney, Michael L.; Nemeth, David J., Ph. D.
project description
Romanies have sustained their remarkably successful underground existence depending on specialty trades in territorial niche markets. The Rom, an ethnic Romani sub-group, rely on fortune-telling as their major source of income. Fortune-telling “offices,” translated from ofisas in the Romani language (Rromanes), are the center of urban market areas, with entire towns being sold as fortune-telling territories. Many Rom sell ofisas via internet message boards and streaming video websites, exposing valuable information on desirable location attributes, territorial disputes, as well as the (self) appraised value of their territories. By mining these posts, one of the co-authors was able to compile a large georeferenced dataset on ofisa prices and characteristics, which offered initial insights into measureable attributes impacting ofisa prices. These empirical results when mapped inspired the creation of a crude ofisa location prediction model. Our poster presentation graphically highlights findings from the data gathering process, including ofisa design, terminology, and territorial disputes. In general, the data-dredging process from Internet sources reveals previously unknown details about Rom communication, territoriality, and ofisa location selection.