Research

Anthropology and education is my field of specialization. In the last decade and a half, my research concentrated on the topic of youth in migration and, more recently, on the interaction between migration and globalization, as well as the effect of these processes on formal and informal education.  These issues are at the forefront of the research agenda in educational anthropology due to the challenges they present to educational systems the world over.

In the following I provide a brief thematic overview of my work:
On the conceptual level my research deals with the anthropological study of learning, which I define as a dynamic, ongoing, multi-modal and situationally conditioned process that occurs with or without the subject’s cognizance. The theoretical facet of learning is treated in my co-authored book, Culture Acquisition: A Holistic Approach to Human Learning. The purpose of this book is to conceptualize and operationalize learning as an interactive process, dependent on the human ability to sense, store and manipulate information. Since the processes by which humans learn are universal, the real work of the anthropologist is to focus on the context of learning, that is, on the structures and processes associated with the culture of the group. These publications comprise additional theoretical-methodological issues, as does my co-edited book, Qualitative Resarch and Evaluation in Group Care.

As an anthropologist living in a society that is culturally diverse, as well as divided, I am both committed to and intrigued by probing perceptions and representations of cultural difference in several life spheres, such as education, family relations and public health. This research focus has yielded a series of publications; a theme issue, Coping with Cultural Differences in a Variety of Learning Contexts in Israel; and a co-edited book, The Faces Reflected in the Mirror: Culture and Society in Israel in the 1990s.


The culture acquisition and transmission processes that individuals and groups engage in, as part of their involvement in intense change, is a central motif in my studies. I explore it in several contexts:
- Residential education – as a locus of all-encompassing personal transformation – is one of them: This topic is addressed in a sequence of works – beginning with my doctoral dissertation in which I performed an ethnographic study of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a religious order whose mission centers on the residential education of young women with behavioral and emotional challenges; on to articles ; book chapters and my book, The Anthropology of Child and Youth Care Work. This body of publications tackles various aspects of the residential experience from the viewpoint of the residents, the staff, and family members. Focusing on the holistic nature of residential or group care environments, I harness the unique potential of anthropological research to illuminate the life worlds of these various actors. The book also develops an anthropological model of child and youth care work. It highlights the contributions of the anthropological perspective and methods, as applied to the analysis of interactions in residential settings, to the professional training and functioning of child and youth care workers.
- Cross-cultural migration – with special emphasis on immigrant youths’ modes of social and academic adaptation – is my current area of research. In the series of articles devoted to this topic I explore the migration careers of young newcomers from the European republics of the Former Soviet Union and other East European countries to Israel. Assertive and confident in the cultural capital they bring along, they do not obediently accept the prevalent models of immigrant education in the receiving society, but rather challenge it – which is the rationale for my choice to study them. They reaffirm the need for continuity in their lives and make sense of the new school experience in light of their personal, family and educational histories. These youth expect to be consulted on the rate and extent of acculturative change to which they are willing to subscribe. They distinguish between short- and long-range social and educational goals and opt for gradual entry into the new society on negotiable rather than prescribed terms. These studies attempt to bring out the voices of these young immigrants on a variety of issues directly affecting their lives.  As such, they should be considered part of the recent anthropological research trend that came to be known as the “ethnography of empowerment”.

In my edited book, On Cultural Boundaries and between Them: Young Immigrants in Israel, I investigate the coping styles of several groups of first-generation young diaspora migrants.

In my authored book, Immigrant Youth Who Excel: Globalization’s Uncelebrated Heroes, I adopt a comparative, asset-based approach to immigrant education. Through my studies of Russian immigrant youth in Israel, I examine and illustrate why high achieving immigrant youth are in a better position than local youth to face the challenges of globalization.

Two specific foci that I have addressed in my research, in particular detail, are the impact of migration and social change on a) the family and b) youth public and political participation.
Within the study of learning and migration, I have also developed a special interest in the phenomenology of place and its consequences for the lives of individuals. Hence, my interest in the conception of places, such as home, school or state.

Being a fervent student of social and cultural change, I intend to further develop this line of research in my next project. My plan is to undertake a series of phenomenological self-examinations, by a broad array of social actors, who will be asked to narrate their life stories by revisiting decisive moments in their lives. The series will be called: “If I had a second chance.”