This article examines the connection between state ethnic classifications and the way they are perceived by individuals in everyday life. Using the case of the Boarding School for the Gifted Disadvantaged in Israel which is open to immigrants, an attempt was made to reach an understanding of how individuals who have experienced deliberate state intervention in the ethnic component of their selfhood, experience this intervention years after the (re)construction. The main findings illuminate how boarding school graduates transformed the governmental intervention into a unique ethnic identity for everyday life: ‘ethnicity without ethnicity'. This identity rejects any overt engagement with the ethnic component of the concept of self. This identity even relies on the subject's constant reminders to himself that ‘he is beyond the ethnic story' and that meritocratic identity (devoid of ethnic consciousness) is preferable to ascriptive identity. The findings also show that ethnic identity is not necessarily expressed in everyday practices (language, food consumption, music, festivals) but rather in ongoing cognitive engagement of the agent distanced from the available official ethnic classifications. The discussion section tracks the state-organizational sources of this ethnic identity and its relation to the unmarked ethnicity amongst the upper-middle classes.
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- boarding schools
- middle class