Experiences of "not belonging" in collectivistic communities: Narratives of gays in kibbutzes

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The kibbutz is a uniquely Israeli phenomenon which is currently undergoing major changes, both ideologically and practically. It has attracted worldwide sociological and psychological research attention due to its unique characteristics, particularly in relation to communal child-rearing, education, and family life. The purpose of this paper is to understand the life experiences of homosexuals who experienced their adolescence on kibbutzes during the 1970s. In this study, the life experiences of ten gay men who still live on the kibbutz or have spent significant periods of their lives on it are examined from their own perspectives in order to understand how they view the connection between homosexuality and kibbutz life. Researching such a topic by utilizing a qualitative research paradigm approach enriches our understanding of the meanings associated with being different and the various ways in which marginality is perceived and experienced within the communal life of the kibbutz. A purposive sample of 10 gay men was recruited, and the age of participants ranged from 17-45. At the time of the interviews, six interviewees still lived on the kibbutz. Each participant was interviewed in-depth, with interviews lasting between one-and-a-half to two hours. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Two methods were used to analyze the data: analytic induction and constant comparison analysis. The findings suggest an interesting dynamic regarding the experiences of gay men in their transition from one total institution, the kibbutz, to another total institution, the army. Paradoxically, life in the army, which is undoubtedly a restricted system, is accompanied by experiences of freedom and actualization of self when compared to life in the kibbutz. The findings are discussed within the frameworks of differentness and marginality, homosexuality theory from both psychological and sociological perspectives, and the unique ideological and practical aspects of kibbutz life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-124
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Homosexuality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Collectivistic communities
  • Homosexuality
  • Individuality
  • Intimacy
  • Kibbutzes
  • Marginality
  • Military service
  • Narratives
  • Social relationships
  • Total institution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Gender Studies


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