Recollection and relocation in immigration: Russian-Jewish immigrants "normalize" their anti-Semitic experiences

Tamar Rapoport, Edna Lomsky-Feder, Angelika Heider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study conceptualizes the relationship between recollection of the past and relocation in the context of immigration. Combining symbolic interactionist and narrative paradigms, it explores how immigrants' representations of past experiences inform their identity construction and the process of entering the host society. Our interpretive analysis of personal narratives related spontaneously by eighty-nine Russian-Jewish immigrants in Israel and Germany reveals that they choose to "normalize" their anti-Semitic experiences by representing them as secondary, expected, and "normal." They do so via four narrating tactics of normalization: obscuring, self-exclusion, vindication, and essentializing stigma. Each tactic devalues the cultural depiction (grand narrative) of anti-Semitic experiences as transformative and traumatic. By normalizing their past, the immigrants deconstruct and resist the authority and moral commands of the national narrative they encounter in both societies. Putting forward normalization as an alternative interpretation, the immigrants claim ownership of their biography and cultural identity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)175-198
Number of pages24
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


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