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Governmentality, self, and acting at a distance

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This article deals with the way individuals translate governmental rationality into specific self-understandings in everyday life. Based on the case study of a state-run boarding school in Israel, the article draws a link between deliberate governmental intervention in the self-concept of ethnic subjects and the manner in which boarding-school graduates experience this intervention and their selfhood, years after their education in the boarding school. This deliberate governmental intervention is shown to be a form of pastoral power. The boarding school is presented as a voluntary organization acting to enhance the life opportunities of citizens described as ‘marginal’. Furthermore, governmental intervention encompasses organized and deliberate transformation of students’ ethnic identities. The interviews with boarding school graduates reveal that they do not experience their selfhood as one whole but rather as two simultaneous types of self: Eastern and Western. This type of selfhood maintains an antithetical relationship between its two components as well as a lasting attempt to discard one selfhood in favor of the other. The discussion section elucidates the internal logic at the heart of the relationship of the self to self and the meaning of the concept of ‘acting at a distance’ that is bound up with governmentality.
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Keywords: ethnicity; governmentality; self; state

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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