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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploration of nonevent among Israeli expatriates Barkan-Ascher, Nurit


This study explores the experience of nonevent among Israeli expatriates. A nonevent is the failure of an expected pivotal life event, or change, to occur. An account of the lived experience of nonevent and its personal meaning has been lacking in the literature to date. This study has attempted to fill some of this lack using a phenomenological case study approach. A total of twenty Israeli expatriates participated in the study. Individual descriptions of the experience were elicited through intensive exploratory interviews. Following a corroboratory mode of analysis these descriptions were compared with one another and with data from several different sources. These sources included a pilot study questionnaire, two informal group discussions and letters received from other Israeli expatriates. The findings and conclusions are based on the convergence of data from the various sources. The findings confirmed that non-return was a central nonevent experience in the life of the study participants. The broken expectation to return to the home country entailed a threat to the values, world-view and sense of belonging which were held by the participants as fundamental to the security of their identity. It altered their expected course of life, a range of personal commitments and the way they conceived of themselves, all of which are implicated in the meaning of and the vision for living. The findings illustrate that the existential entanglement of nonevent emerges in the realm of relatedness. The nonevent separates the person from his or her sense of self as a member of a community, and thus from a personal moral commitment and responsibility for and to the community, which is part of the self. The nonevent experience was dominated by the struggle of the participants to maintain a sense of connection with their society. It brought to the fore the sense that the everyday world is a moral world. The accounts illustrate the participants' moral negotiation in facing real life obstacles to cultural principles, values and attachments, which were embedded in their definition of self. The essential underlying theme of the nonevent experience is the struggle to maintain a self-respecting, connected, morally sensitive identity. The nonevent put the participants in an emotional no-man's land. Separated geographically, they are struggling to preserve or recreate their spiritual connectedness to their original community, to reconcile the paradox of being both separated and connected, and to be a part while being apart. The findings of this study have important theoretical and research implications. They suggest that in studying nonevent there is a need to understand the phenomenon through its appearance as an absence, and recognize that an absence is not merely nothing, but rather another form of presence. The findings suggest that the experience of nonevent needs to be examined within relational theory, since a sense of connection and affiliation seemed more fundamental than the need to separate. The study also suggests that in order to understand the meaning of a life-shaping expectation and its nonoccurrence to the person, research and theory need to take into account contexts beyond the immediate presenting situation. Furthermore, the strong connection made by the participants of this study between the experience of nonevent and moral identity presents an important focus for further research.

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