The self as public property: Made in Israel

Avi Shoshana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article examines the connection between state order and selfunderstandings in everyday life through a case study of the "Boarding School for Gifted Disadvantaged" in Israel. It includes content analysis of governmental protocols that documented the establishment of the boarding school (governmental constitution of a new self-concept) and interviews with sixty of its graduates (self-understandings in everyday life). The findings reveal how the new cultural order invented a new selfhood, "gifted disadvantaged," previously unknown in Israel. This category is based on structural distinctions between being "naturally" gifted versus the governmental constitution of gifted status. Interviews with graduates indicate that they experience selfhood as a philanthropic gift bestowed on them by the state of Israel and voice their gratitude toward the state. The concluding discussion suggests that the graduates experience their selfhood as "public property." The self, perceived as having been constructed from outside, is in a continuous dialectic between the presence and the absence of certain personal qualities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-201
Number of pages17
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Boarding school
  • Ethnicity
  • Self
  • State


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