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Resisting assimilation – ethnic boundary maintenance among Jews in Sweden


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8 March 2021


This article evaluates Andreas Wimmer’s theory of ethnic boundary making by applying it to the maintenance of Jewish ethnic identification in Sweden, as expressed in interviews with Swedish Jews. Wimmer proposes that ethnic conflict routinizes and entrenches perceptions of ethnic difference; we argue that the antisemitic persecutions of the twentieth century have entrenched the perception of the ethnic distinctiveness of Jews among Jews themselves. These persecutions also contribute to alienation from Swedish society, which does not share the same frames of understanding. These factors motivate the interviewees to maintain the ethnic boundary between Swedes and Jews and guard it against assimilation. We propose a nuancing of the debate between instrumentalist and primordialist conceptions of ethnic identity by arguing that while our interviewees express a taken-for-granted view of their ethnic identities, they advance ethnic discourse strategically in order to protect the Jewish community from losing its distinctness, especially through assimilation.



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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Link to article including link to pdf, Resisting assimilation – ethnic boundary maintenance among Jews in Sweden

Bibliographic Information

Grobgeld, David, Bursell, Moa Resisting assimilation – ethnic boundary maintenance among Jews in Sweden. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory. 8 March 2021:  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/10.1080/1600910X.2021.1885460