THE PERCEPTION OF "OTHERS" AS PART OF IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION
 
Litvak-Hirsch, T., Ben-Gurion University, Israel
 
The purpose of this paper is to present a new research tool that aims to examine the influence of the perception of "others" on the process of identity construction in general, and Israeli identity in particular. In the case of Israel (or other young countries and/or identities that are undergoing a process of change, such as countries in Eastern Europe) it is possible to see identity construction as a complex process that emerges out of the combined elements of personal and national maturity. One of the most influential factors of this identity construction is the way that "others" are perceived. {Bar-On, 1999}. The purpose of the new research tool is to show how people construct their identity in interaction with how they perceive "others". This process is demonstrated in terms of how people relate to six dilemmas, taken from different fields that feature widely in the ongoing Israeli discourse. One example is the Arab - Israeli conflict. All interviewees were asked to relate to the dilemmas by expressing feelings, thoughts, personal memories and associations. The idea of the method is taken from Kohlberg who focuses on the process and rationale behind the answer rather than explaining events from one 'correct' answer {Kohlberg, 1984}. How can this tool be applied? 1.As a diagnostic tool, showing the process of development and change in one's individual and collective identity; 2. As an educational tool, that aims to minimize stereotyping; to increase tolerance, and to enhance the transition from a one-dimensional perception, based on hatred of the "other" to a more complex perception which is prepared to recognize and accept different aspects of the "other" and to conduct a dialogue with him; 3. As a tool for evaluating interventions through group processes in conflict situations. The assumption is that people will react to different "others" in different ways ranging from "monolithic" through "ambivalent" to "complex" perceptions. The study that will be presented is part of a study that is aimed to evaluate processes of development and change in Identity. Results from analyzed interviews of Jews and Arabs who participated in a one- year workshop are presented, and the effect of "others" as part of identity construction will be discussed.