Give Shadow to Speech: the Romani Struggle Is Also Decolonial



In this essay translated from French by Raphy Wofsy, Romani researcher and activist Sarah Carmona delves into her work on the extime and confronts us with crucial questions on decolonial thought, its actual limits and potential extensions. She invites us to reconsider History, and solidarities among non-white communities.


But don’t split off No from Yes.

Give your say this meaning too:

Give it the shadow.

Paul Celan (1955).

Give shadow to speech. Give shadow to speech, it’s to put oneself in danger concerning the imagined imperative of honesty. Giving shadow to speech, it’s giving shadow to light, to not find comfort in the reassuring space of dogmas, in where they are created, as comfortable as this space can be. To always be in suspense, on the edge, tightrope walker, furtive, fluid and majestic. Crazed for mobility, drunk on rhizomic thoughts. It’s from this position that I think best, this position in which the idiosyncrasies of my people, the position of hermeneuts, of travelers, of dancers and mercenaries, reveals itself to me in all its power. 

So it is from here that I speak to you. And it’s from here that I will try to tell you about my people’s battles, this extimacy coming out of imaginary limbos of a medieval European society in full transformation, which today still fascinates and worries you. 

I fly this position as a flag because it is, in my opinion, the foremost prerequisite for all desire to elaborate a critical decolonial theory. It asks us to undo all the egocentric rigidities, semantics, doctrines, which contradict and hamper the pluriversal goal of this silty theory. Theorizing the decolonial from the Romani perspective, giving shadow to speech, is to question the sometimes rigid theoretical limits of a possible, of which the first goal is liberation. It’s to try everything to free oneself from the doxa limits, even those within which we might deliberately choose to take refuge, for a complex theory and an internal lucidity knowing that “lucidity is the closest wound to the sun.”

The colonial situations in Europe are derived from both many shared relationships, and from multiple realities, generating particularisms rich with paradigms. These situations
should, therefore, lead to a dialectic analysis which surpasses hegemonic schools of thought, allowing, at the same time, the construction of bridges between different margins and the consciousness of specificities to push against the limits of decolonial thought. Regrettably, in my opinion, it forgets that the essential is in the pluriversal, that the power of this theoretical framework, which in fact should not be one, is to be rhizomic and dynamic.

Almost a decade ago now, within the French decolonial movement I weaved the very first silk threads of an alliance between margins, indispensable in my view. After a long process of extraction from the master’s house, after having reaped what would be my spoils-of-war, I had to get involved in the fights against the forms of domination which persisted and which come from a colonialism of power and of knowledge traversed by the question of race. Here the intersection between this nascent alliance of the margins takes place.