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Social representations of the Holocaust and Jewish Israeli identity construction: insights from identity process theory

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This study explores how a group of young Israeli Jews understood and defined their ethno-national identities, focusing upon the role of social representations of the Holocaust in the construction of Jewish Israeli identity. Eleven individuals were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule. Transcripts were subjected to interpretative phenomenological analysis. The analysis was informed by identity process theory and social representations theory. Three superordinate themes are reported, entitled: (i) ‘perceptions of the Holocaust as a personal and shared loss’; (ii) ‘re-conceptualising the Holocaust and its impact upon intra-/intergroup relations’; and (iii) ‘the Holocaust as a heuristic lens for understanding the Israeli-Arab conflict’. The data suggest that awareness of social representations of the Holocaust may enhance the belonging and continuity principles of identity, in particular. It is argued that the maintenance of national ingroup security constitutes a source of (group) continuity. Implications for psychological well-being are discussed.
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Keywords: Holocaust; Jewish identity; identity process theory; psychological well-being; qualitative; social psychology; social representations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK 2: Département de psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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