Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Barry Lyons


The book, "Zanko, Chef Tribal: Traditions, Coutumes, Legendes des Tsigane Chalderash," is a classic in literature about Gypsies. The book resulted from a collaboration of a Dominican priest, the Reverend Father Chatard, and a leader of the Chalderash Gypsies of France, Alexander Zanko. "Old Zanko," could neither read nor write but he was a master of the oral art of performance whose narratives were a means of conserving and disseminating the beliefs and way of life of a particular people for Old Zanko himself was the repository of legend and myth, custom and tradition, religion and ethics. He knew that a great deal of his knowledge would die with him and so he resolved to have it recorded. In this endeavor he had the assistance of the Reverend Father Chatard who by means of interviews and recitation sessions recorded "The Tradition of the Ancestors," which had never before been committed to writing.

At the time of publication, "Zanko, Chef Tribal" was misunderstood by the French literary establishment. However, since that time, such theorists as sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1977), literary critic Edward Said (1978), Walter J. Ong (1999), and a host of other social scientists permit a new understanding of this text. This dissertation analyzes the book by means of various theories to demonstrate its literary importance and its ethnographic significance.