Photo of Dr David Tollerton

Dr David Tollerton

Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Contemporary Biblical Cultures

4238

01392 724238

I am currently writing a book entitled Holocaust Memory and the Religious-Secular Landscape of Contemporary Britain for Routledge's Studies in Religion series. In its first half attention will be given to the varied meanings of public Holocaust memory for Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and post-Christian communities. In its second half, focus will turn to the ways in which state-supported Holocaust remembrance activities are intertwined with perceptions of sacrality. It will be the first study to examine Holocaust remembrance and British religiosity/secularity in relation to one another, and will break new ground as an interdisciplinary treatment of Holocaust studies and religious studies. The book will argue that critical consideration of this interface is necessary for a better understanding of both contemporary British public life and for a sustainable culture of remembrance and national self-examination.

 

My earlier 2012 monograph, The Book of Job in Post-Holocaust Thought, considered the use of Job’s archetypal story amidst Jewish reflections on persecution during the Nazi period, highlighting the extent to which interpretive traditions, contemporary politics, and debates about history shape the meaning given to the biblical text. 

 

 

Research interests

My current research work concerns public Holocaust memory in contemporary Britain, its relationship with religious/secular communities, and perceptions of sacredness. The main output will be a book with Routledge's Studies in Religion series.

The project looks at two key phenomena in relation to one another: (i) the rapid 21st century rise in state-supported public Holocaust remembrance activities, and (ii) the religious-secular flux of contemporary Britain characterised by increased diversity, media/political controversies regarding inclusion and belonging, and the decline in people self-identifying as Christian. 

I will put forward these central claims:

  • that public Holocaust memory interacts differently with, and has (sometimes awkwardly) divergent meanings for, varied religious and secular groupings within British society;
  • that evocations of sacred language, ritual, and transformative experience surround remembrance activities to a degree that Holocaust memory now has a crucial role for British value-building, public performance, and the navigation of Christianity’s decline as a central structure of social life.

I argue that it is imperative to open cross-disciplinary discussion of these phenomena. It is imperative so that Holocaust remembrance is not conceptually homogenized in a manner that overlooks the diverse situations, histories, and self-understandings of distinct religious and secular communities. It is also imperative so that evocations of the sacred do not hinder difficult but necessary conversations regarding (i) the relationship between Holocaust memory and critical remembrance of wider British history, (ii) the sustainability and stability of memorialisation in light of its rapid and remarkable growth, and (iii) the interactions of public Holocaust memory and contemporary debates on national identity.  

For an early treatment of this topic, see this Journal of Religion and Society article.

Research supervision

I am particularly interested in discussing proposals on:

i. Religious responses to the Holocaust

ii. Ideas of blasphemy and religious offence

Please have a look at the other profile tabs to see more detail concerning my current work. I am happy to discuss research proposals on any related area so do feel free to get in touch via d.c.tollerton@exeter.ac.uk

External impact and engagement

I have written on Holocaust memory and contemporary politics for The GuardianThe Times Higher Education, and The Conversation, as well as speaking on Radio Devon and at a range of public and school events in Exeter and Oxford.

'Comparisons Between US Immigration Policy and the Nazi Period may not be Helpful, But They are Hard to Avoid', The Conversation, 25 June 2018.

'Scrap Thought for the Day - For the Love of All that is Holy', The Conversation, 2 November 2017.

'The Problem with London's New Holocaust Memorial', The Conversation, 26 October 2017.

'The Six-Day War and 21st Century Religion in the Public Sphere', Religion Bulletin, 6 June 2017.

'Easter Egg Row is an Undercooked Mess that Feeds English Nationalism', The Conversation, 5 April 2017.

‘In the Age of Trump, Why Bother Teaching Students to Argue Logically?’ The Guardian, 15 November 2016.

‘Universities Should Not Just Condemn “Zionist bashing”, But Also Educate’, Times Higher Education, 10 May, 2016.

‘Should We Compare the Refugee Crisis and the Holocaust in the Lecture Hall?’ Times Higher Education, 8 September 2015.

‘Texas Shooting is a Pointless Chapter in the Story of Intolerance and Extremism’, The Conversation, 8 May 2015.

‘Comparing Hamas to Biblical Cult of Child-Killers is Neither Accurate Nor Helpful’, The Conversation, 20 August 2014.

Contribution to discipline

I am a member of the editorial board for Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History and steering committee member for the AAR 'Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide' Unit.

 

Teaching

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was recently nominated by my students for several Guild teaching awards.

Modules taught