Riding the Culture Train: Ethnography of a Plan for Social Mobility through Music

Aharon Meirav

This article examines the production of ‘high culture’ and how it shapes social mobility. I observe how the second generation of immigrants from North Africa have succeeded in rising up the Israeli social hierarchy by appropriating established modes of cultural expression. The founders of the Israel Andalusian Orchestra became aware that the road to full integration was closed to them by the politics of difference, that the way to total segregation from wider Israeli society was closed by economic and ontological dependence on the national state, and the option of multi-culturalism condemned them to a permanently marginal status. They realized that they needed a new political approach and that cultural appropriation was the way by which they could reclaim their ethnic identity yet still establish themselves among the élite of Israel.