Volume 12, 2007 : Immigrant Scholars Write about Identity and Integration

An Introduction: Russian Immigrant Scholars Write about Identity and Integration
Larissa Remennick
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
Bar-Ilan University, Israel

The demise of the Soviet System in the late 1980s and 1990s coincided with a mass exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel and a few Western countries, depleting the ranks of Soviet Jewry but significantly fortifying Jewish communities in the host countries. Emigration and taking a fresh start in the new homelands became one of the key traits of collective experience and identity of former Soviet Jewry and a subject of multiple research projects. This special issue of “Sociological Papers” brings together seven articles about immigrant matters authored by the social scientists who are themselves immigrants of Russian-Jewish origin. Up until recently, most social research on Russian Jewish immigration in Israel and in the West was conducted and published by the scholars who did not belong to this community, often did not have a fluent command of Russian or a first-hand experience of migration and resettlement. Over time, we see more and more Russian names among the authors of these books and papers, signifying gradual entry of immigrant scholars into the ranks of academic institutions in the host countries and their improving professional status. I believe that immigrant scholars, who are native Russian-speakers and insiders to the migration saga of the 1990s and early 2000s, bring a special insight to the study of immigrant problematics due to their cultural competence and natural access to fellow immigrants for in-depth and ethnographic research. Another advantage of immigrant scholars’ work is redressing power relations between researchers and their respondents or informants, whereby smaller social distance and cultural gap (vis-à-vis native researcher-immigrant informant situation) can lead to greater trust, sincerity and wealth of personal information gleaned. Yet, at the same time the researcher studying members of his/her own ethno-cultural group may need to make a special effort to distance him/herself from the informants and their narratives in order to preserve a neutral and unbiased stance in the course of data collection and analysis.

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