Jewish Identities and their Co-constructors A Qualitative Study of the Social Constructions of Jewish Identities in Sweden

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för socialt arbete

Abstract: The purpose with the study was to understand how people, whom define themselves as Jewish, construct their Jewish identities in relation to different social contexts and external threats as anti-Semitism, in Sweden. The study is qualitative in its kind, which means that semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data. Ten, self-proclaimed, Jewish young adults between the ages of 19-36 years were interviewed about their constructions of Jewish identities and of their own Jewish identity in relation to different social groups and contexts. A thematic analysis and theoretical concepts were used to analyse the data. The theoretical concepts were; Symbolic Interactionism, Diaspora, and Ethnicity.The findings showed that Jewish identities were constructed with the help of co-constructors such as family members, friends, the Jewish communities, and anti-Semitism. To construct one’s Jewish identity is also to construct it with the help of the Swedish society as a whole, which adds to the discussion of being a hyphen-Jew/Swede. Further findings also revealed that one cannot be open with one’s Jewish identity in every geographical area in Sweden due to anti-Semitism. Being in the privileged areas meant that anti-Semitism was surreptitious and therefore less visible. In the marginalised areas, however, the respondents meant that the exposure to anti-Semitism increased due to its more open expression. In the privileged areas it was easier to display symbols that indicated Jewish affinity whereas in the marginalised areas the respondents felt that they had to hide anything that could indicate that one was Jewish. Exposure to anti-Semitism meant that one approached the Jewish friends as a strategy for support to cope with anti-Semitism.

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