The process of ethnogenesis among Haitian and Israeli immigrants in the United States

David Mittelberg, Mary C. Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the process of ethnic identity formation among two different groups of recent immigrants to the United States: secular kibbutzborn Israelis and middle-class Haitians. While the two groups are different in a number of ways, they share an ambivalence with the identities that American society would assign to them - as Jews and blacks respectively. By contrasting these two case studies we identify the role of the ‘proximal host’, the category to which the immigrants would be assigned following immigration. The determination of the ultimate definition of the ethnic identities of these immigrants is a result of the interaction of the conception of identity the immigrants bring with them from their countries of origin, the definitions and reactions of the proximal host group, and the overall ordering and definitions of American society. The ambivalence of both groups of immigrants towards their post-immigration identities is a result of both macro-forces determining the definition of categories and microforces of individual choice. In conclusion we show that because of the primacy of race in American society, Israelis are likely to face many more options in the determination of their identities, than are Haitians, although they both face a similar structural dilemma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-435
Number of pages24
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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