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The Cultural Divide

Book Reading as a Signifier of Boundaries among Co-Cultures in Israeli Society

Hanna Adoni and Hillel Nossek

This article investigates the function of book reading in a society consisting of a multiplicity of ethno-cultural communities, asking whether book reading functions as a unifying factor within each ethno-cultural community or as a dividing factor and as a signifier of boundaries between them. It is based on multiyear survey data among representative samples of Israeli urban adults (1970, 1990, 2001-2002, 2007, and 2011), focus groups, and analysis of bestseller lists (2001, 2002). The article demonstrates that book reading functions as a signifier of boundaries within Israeli society, namely between ethno-cultural co-cultures of veteran Jewish Israelis, Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Israeli Arabs. This supports Morley and Robins's claim that cultural consumption may be a divisive factor between the co-cultures within nation-states.