UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Dr Péter Berta

Péter is an anthropologist concentrating on Central and Eastern Europe, especially Romania and Hungary. He specializes in economic anthropology, law and society (the politics of arranged marriage), material culture studies, consumption studies and Romani studies.

Péter is an Honorary Research Associate at SSEES, an Associate Member at Transnational Spaces: Migration Research Unit (UCL, Department of Geography), an Affiliate Member at the Centre for Comparative Studies of Emerging Economies (UCL) and a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Ethnology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

He has recently published a monograph entitled „Materializing Difference: Consumer Culture, Politics, and Ethnicity among Romanian Roma” with the University of Toronto Press (2019; with a foreword by Fred R. Myers; Anthropological Horizons Series; 390 pages + 34 colour photographs). For reviews and table of contents, please see 

https://utorontopress.com/ca/materializing-difference-4 or 

Short description of the book:

“How do objects mediate human relationships, and possess their own social and political agency? What role does material culture – prestige consumption as well as commodity aesthetics, biographies, and ownership histories – play in the production of social and political identities, differences, and hierarchies? How do (informal) consumer subcultures of collectors organize and manage themselves? Drawing on theories from anthropology and sociology, specifically material culture, consumption, museum, ethnicity, and post-socialist studies, Materializing Difference addresses these questions via analysis of the practices and ideologies connected to Gabor Roma beakers and roofed tankards made of antique silver. The consumer subculture organized around these objects – defined as ethnicized and gendered prestige goods by the Gabor Roma living in Romania – is a contemporary, second-hand culture based on patina-oriented consumption.

Materializing Difference reveals the inner dynamics of the complex relationships and interactions between objects (silver beakers and roofed tankards) and subjects (Romanian Roma) and investigates how these relationships and interactions contribute to the construction, materialization, and reformulation of social, economic, and political identities, boundaries, and differences. It also discusses how, after 1989, the political transformation in Romania led to the emergence of a new, post-socialist consumer sensitivity among the Gabor Roma, and how this sensitivity reshaped the pre-regime-change patterns, meanings, and value preferences of prestige consumption.”

Péter has established a book series entitled The Politics of Marriage and Gender: Global Issues in Local Contexts”. The series is published by Rutgers University Press and edited by Péter. The intention of the series is to fill a gap in research by examining the politics of marriage and related practices, ideologies and interpretations, and to address the key question of how the politics of marriage has affected social, cultural and political processes, relations and boundaries. The series will look at the complex relationships between the politics of marriage and gender, ethnic, national, religious, racial and class identities, and will analyse how these relationships contribute to the development and management of social and political differences, inequalities and conflicts. For further details, please see

Péter’s current project is entitled "Contextualizing Power, Law, and Culture: The Politics of Arranged Marriage among Romanian Roma”. The project involves an anthropological research focusing on marriage politics and arranged marriage – often of children – characteristic of the Gabor Roma ethnic population living in Romania. The project, among others:

– Aims to give a detailed critical analysis of the European media, human rights and political discourses dealing with the presumed cultural, social and economic motivations and consequences of arranged marriage among Romanian Roma.

– Analysing the experiences of a more than thirty-two-month-long field research, the project examines the ideologies the Gabor Roma use to justify and rationalize the political, social, cultural and economic significance of arranged marriage interpreted as an essential and inalienable component of their collective cultural heritage, ethnic identity and belonging.

– The project also pays special attention to the complex interactions between transnational economic migration, intraethnic politics of difference and arranged marriage, and to

– The inner dynamics of the legal classification struggles between Gabor Roma customary law and European Union/Romanian state/church laws.

In short, the project aims to reveal the strategies, practices and ideologies through which a translocal post-socialist informal economy – the Gabor Roma “market” of arranged marriages – works and flourishes despite the formal disapproval and prohibition represented by the laws of the Romanian state, the Seventh-Day-Adventist Church and the European Union.

Péter has published in journals such as Social Anthropology, Journal of Consumer Culture, Museum Anthropology, Research in Economic Anthropology, Museum Anthropology Review, Romani Studies and Journal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss.

He is currently involved in the Global Informality Project headed by Prof. Alena Ledeneva.