Dr Isabel Wollaston BA, PhD (Dunelm)

Department of Theology and Religion
Senior Lecturer in Jewish and Holocaust Studies

Contact details

Address
ERI Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

My main teaching and research interests, and the majority of my publications, relate to Holocaust studies and contemporary Jewish-Christian relations (post 1945). I am co-programme leader (with Joanne Sayner, German Studies) of the interdisciplinary MA Holocaust and Genocide

Biography

Isabel’s first academic appointment was as Sir James Knott Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She then spent a year as British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies before moving to Birmingham.

Together with Jonathan Webber, Isabel co-convened the 5th European Association for Jewish Studies Summer Colloquium, Teaching the Holocaust in Higher Education in Europe (held at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 2003). In 2005 Isabel served as President of the British Association for Jewish Studies organizing its annual conference on Women in the Jewish World: Myth and Reality, Yesterday and Today (held in Birmingham). In 2015 she was president of the British Association for Holocaust Studies organizing its annual conference on Another time, Another place? Challenges in Commemorating, Teaching and Researching the Holocaust 70 Years On (held in Birmingham).

In 2013, together with Rose Whyman (Drama and Theatre Studies), Isabel coordinated a series of well-attended and well-received events marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the first Kindertransport in the UK under the auspices of Saving Humans for the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies. This included a week of blogs, a half-day workshop on The Kindertransport in History and Memory and a professionally-directed student production of the play Kindertransport including a Q&A session with the playwright Diane Samuels on the opening night.

Isabel was a member of the Member of the Home Office’s Holocaust Memorial Day Strategic Vision Group (2002-2005) and is currently a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. Laxton, Nottinghamshire. She is co-convenor of Mosaic: The Birmingham Society for Jewish Studies (with Charlotte Hempel) which hosts an annual programme of public lectures and short series of adult education lectures in the evening. All Mosaic events are open to staff and students of the University of Birmingham. 

Teaching

Undergraduate

  • Defining Jews, Jewishness and Judaism(s)
  • Introduction to the Study of the Holocaust
  • Widening Horizons Module: Constructing the Holocaust
  • Auschwitz in History and Memory
  • Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust
  • Dissertation tutor coordinating the Dissertation Preparation module and the level H dissertation.

Postgraduate

  • Historical and contemporary debates on the Holocaust
  • Holocaust and Genocide: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives
  • Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust

Postgraduate supervision

I am keen to supervise in the following areas: Jewish religious responses to the Holocaust; Contemporary Christian-Jewish relations (with a particular interest in the Christianization of the Holocaust, Catholic-Jewish relations, Christian BDS movements and Kairos Palestine); representations of the Holocaust (particularly photographs, film, testimony, gendered responses); memorialization and musealization of the Holocaust; British responses to the Holocaust (with a particular interest in Kindertransport, Holocaust Memorial Day, in memorials and museums, survivors such as Kitty Hart-Moxon, the institutionalization of British memory of the Holocaust in museums and memorials, Holocaust education, the creation and evolution of Holocaust Memorial Day, the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission report Britain’s Promise to Remember and creation of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation); gender and the Holocaust; dark tourism/Holocaust tourism; commemoration/memorialization of mass death

I have supervised a range of Masters and PhD theses on topics in these areas. The three most recent completed PhDs I have supervised have been entitled:

  • A Contemporary Look at the Jewish Past in Poland’? Traces of Memory and the Galicia Jewish Museum, Kraków (2004-2011)
  • A critical analysis of the Kairos Palestine document and its significance in relation to contemporary Christian approaches to the Israel-Palestinian conflict
  • Supersessionism, anti-supersessionism, and the State of Israel: A critical exploration of Christian supersessionism, possible alternatives, and discussions surrounding the modern state of Israel

Three of the PhDs I have supervised were subsequently published as monographs:

  • Jane Briggs, How Dostoevsky Portrays Women in his Novels: A Feminist Analysis (Lampeter,  2009) – co-supervised with the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies;
  • Michael Chester, Divine Pathos and Human Being: The Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel (London, 2005);
K Hannah Holtschneider, German Protestants Remember the Holocaust: Theology and the Construction of Collective Memory (Münster, New Brunswick & London, 2001);

Research


  • Jewish and Christian religious/theological responses to the Holocaust
  • Jewish-Christian relations post 1945, particularly the ‘Christianization’ of the Holocaust
  • Visual representations of the Holocaust (in memorials, photographs and film)
  • The representation of the Holocaust, and/or of Jewishness and Judaism, and/or Jewish-Christian relations in museums
  • Post-Holocaust biblical hermeneutics and the post-Holocaust representation of biblical figures (particularly the Akedah, Job and Jesus) in a range of media

Recently concluded research project

In 2015 I completed a funded three year educational project Jewish Heritage and Culture: Birmingham Perspectives which serves as a framework for hosting regular high quality education programmes and public lectures in Jewish Studies.

Other activities

  • Head of Education, School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
  • Plagiarism Officer, School of  Philosophy, Theology and Religion
  • Co programme leader MA Holocaust and Genocide (with Joanne Sayner, German Studies)
  • Co-convenor Mosaic: The Birmingham Society for Jewish Studies (with Charlotte Hempel) 
  • Editor, Reviews in Religion and Theology, 1997-2005
  • Member of Editorial Advisory Board, British Journal of Holocaust Education, 1991-2001
  • Member of the advisory committee for the journal Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History (2015ff)
  • Member of the Committee of the British Association for Holocaust Studies (2015ff)

Publications

Books

  • (Ed.) with Kay Read, Suffer the Little Children? Reflections on the Cross, Urban Violence and Sacred Space (Birmingham: University of Birmingham Press, 2001)
  • A War against Memory? The Future of Holocaust Remembrance (London: SPCK, 1996)
  • (Ed.) with Jon G. Davies, The Sociology of Sacred Texts, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993)

Selected articles and chapters in books

 Encyclopedia and dictionary entries

  • ‘Ecumenical Deal’ (p. 137), ‘Holocaust’ (pp. 190-191), ‘Holocaust Memorial Days’ (pp. 192-193) and ‘Museums’ (p. 304) in Edward Kessler and Neil Wenborn (eds.), A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations (Cambridge, 2005)
  • ‘Wiesel, Elie’ in Martin Davie et al, New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic, Second Edition (London & Downers Grove, 2016), pp. 958-59
  • ‘Holocaust – Judaism’ in Dale C. Allison, Jr. et al (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, volume 12 (Berlin & Boston, 2016): 83-88 

Educational-related publications

  • Challenges for Theological Training’ in Carol Rittner, Stephen D. Smith and Irena Steinfeldt (eds.), The Holocaust and the Christian World: Reflections on the Past, Challenges for the Future (London: Kuperard, 2000): 189-91, available online at
  • Auschwitz and the Politics of Commemoration, Holocaust Educational Trust Research Papers 1:5 (1999-2000)
  • Christian Responses to the Holocaust, Farmington Papers: Philosophy of Religion 5 (Oxford: Farmington Institute for Christian Studies, 1999)