Acculturation Models of Immigrant Soviet Adolescents in Israel

Article excerpt


This study deals with attitudes both of native Israeli and immigrant students from the Commonwealth of Independent States (i.e., Soviet immigrants). It probes ideological, cultural, social, and personal aspects of the acculturation process.

A theoretical framework combining approaches to sociology of ethnicity and education, which has been termed the "new (or critical) sociology of education" including such concepts as cultural hegemony, cultural reproduction, and cultural resistance (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977; Bowles & Gintis, 1976; Giroux, 1983), are applied here. Few ethnic studies have been conducted at the empirical level using this theory. The efforts by Anyon (1980), Mallea (1989), and Shamai (1987, 1990) are unique in this respect, and serve as a prototype for this paper. The underlying concept is that society perpetuates itself and reproduces its cultural and social hierarchy for the benefit of the dominant group. Cultural hegemony is defined by Giroux (1981; 23) as "the successful attempts of a dominant class to utilize its control over the resources of the state and civil society, particularly through the use of the mass media and the educational system, to establish its view of the world as all-inclusive and universal." The cultural hegemony process is related to cultural reproduction: the culture of the dominant group is reproduced. The values, beliefs, language, and myths of the dominant group are transmitted (not in a "neutral" way) at school to ensure that future generations will share them. Although these concepts were developed and applied mainly for probing socioeconomic relations, using them in ethnic relations can be useful. It can be argued that through the power of state ideology, controlled by the dominant group, ethnic identities are downplayed, ignored, and marginalized.

The cultural reproduction concept ignores the possibility of reaction by subordinate groups. Moreover, ethnic acculturation models emphasize the dominant group's views. "Acculturation is the adoption of new traits or patterns in the course of culture contact. Ideally, acculturation is the way one people learns from another and thereby enriches its own life" (Broom & Selznick, 1977; 79). The acculturation process, in contrast to cultural reproduction, leaves some power in the hands of the immigrant group. While cultural reproduction means that the immigrant group is passive and controlled by the dominant group, acculturation takes into account the reaction of both groups. For example, Lee and Tse (1994) suggest that acculturation may change immigrants' behavior in various ways: toward assimilation to the norms of the majority culture; rejection of the majority culture and retention of their original culture; and selective adaptation to the majority culture. Another example is the acculturation attitude model (Berry et al., 1989; Sam, 1995) of cultural preservation and contact with the dominant group. This model identifies four different categories of acculturation: (1) Assimilation: the immigrant group members adopt the culture of the host society, and abandon their own culture. (2) Integration: the immigrant group members keep their own culture and adopt the culture of the larger society. (3) Marginalization: the immigrant group members are not involved in their own culture or in the culture of the larger society. (4) Separation: the immigrant group members do not adopt the culture of the host society and keep within their own culture (Sam, 1995).

This acculturation model, like cultural reproduction, does not envision that when the immigrants do not adopt the culture of the host society they may have negative feelings toward it, and even actively resist it. Willis (1977) and Giroux (1983) dealt with the concept of resistance: "The mechanisms of reproduction are never complete and are always faced with partially realized elements of opposition" (Giroux, 1983; 283). Resistance is usually active, but can also be passive (Shamai, 1990). …