The Barruf Experience

Welcome to the first selection of Omertaa, the journal for applied anthropology. This journal has arisen out of the interests of a few academics primarily, although not exclusively, in Belgium. One of their main objectives was, and is, to bring the knowledge and craftmanship of social and cultural anthropology back where it should come from: the field. Putting into practice this objective for our first edition, we brought a group of young anthropologists into that field.

In summer of 2006 we set up an anthropological program in Gozo, the sister island of Malta (Europe). With our advisory board we selected eight promising researchers from different universities, and guided them on an intensive three week anthropological expedition. Their aim was to each find a topic that lured their academic focus and to explore this in a vigorous academic, but close-to-the-bone manner.

In this context they explored through narratives the reality of being an anthropologist in the field. lonely walks, difficult confrontations and nice interactions versus shared experiences late at night. and then again, next morning: lonely walks ... this is what it takes to grasp “culture”, merely to be able to disband its whole concept. The Barruf situation as we experienced it was a great help in taking this step.

The Barruf is a piece of “culture” we brought to Gozo ourselves. Not on purpose though: the Barruf is a cultural form that emerged from numerous uncontrolable interactions, tensions and conflicts between us, each other, the landscape, our and their history, between the self and the staged self ... to be aware of this uncontrolable emerging process is to be aware of oneself and his or her place in the world. Furthermore when trying to understand this reality one is obliged to work from the inside out: to understand the system from within. Starting from within the ‘self’, for the anthropologist does not approach the field, he throws himself in the field. Not with great caution, but with modest self-awareness and decisive humility.

This is a selection of research papers we gathered over the years and in our opinion represent the Barruf Experience in the most appropriate manner. Over the years we kept collecting these research papers and we want to present this humble selection to you. This way you, dear reader, are unwillingly part of our Barruf. A concept that we won't explain or analyze, it's only for those who have been there, it's our conspiracy of silence, our Omertà.

I want to thank the authors in this selection for being anthropologists from the heart and thus teaching me what it is all about. And i praise them for being dear friends, companions and inspirations.

Sam Janssen


The Character of a Wall.
The changing construction of agricultural walls on the island of Gozo
by Adam Thompson
Tourism, culture and food
Pastizzerias as a site for cultural brokerage
by Marjan Moris
Anybody on the horizon?
Changing the Static, Moving the unchangeable.
by Camilla Massara
Maltese Bread
a Changing Symbol of the island’s identity
by Greta Kliewer
“The Gozitans are happily depressed”
Narratives concerning the Gozitan Mindset; past and present.”
by Sean O’ Dubhghaill