Journeys from the Abyss - 5 minutes with Tony Kushner

Posted on October 09, 2017 by Heather Gallagher
To celebrate the release of Journeys from the Abyss, caught up with author Tony Kushner to discuss the various experiences of Jewish refugees and the importance of history and memory. 



Could you tell us a bit about the book and what inspired your research? Why do you think this is the first study to place Jewish refugee movements from Nazism into a wider framework of global forced migration?

Over the past couple of decades I have been increasingly interested in refugee history. With Katharine Knox, who I wrote what is the first history of refugees in modern Britain, I was surprised how, with a few exceptions, many refugee histories have been totally neglected and, indeed, forgotten. What we did was a form of rescue history, but we also very much wanted to show how refugees have been part of the British landscape for centuries now.

More recently I have taught a special subject on modern refugees and became aware how in the field of refugee studies, historical approaches are very marginal. The focus is on the 'now' which whilst understandable, makes it very hard to make comparisons and to know what is, and is not new about the current refugee crisis.

 Equally, I have been involved in researching, writing and teaching around the Holocaust and was aware, again understandably, how it has become self-contained as an area of study and reflection. This is true of those who were refugees from Nazism - an area itself which is a little marginal in Holocaust studies.

 With the global refugee crisis which has being growing in scale since the late twentieth century, I wanted to bring together the study of Jews who managed to escape Nazism with modern refugee and migration studies with the hope that they could both shed light on one-another. Journeys from the Abyss is the result. Each section on particular Jewish refugee journeys - of women, of children and of 'boat people' has a pre-history and a post-history. I am not trying to argue that forced migrants before and after are simply the same as Jewish refugees from Nazism but that we can gain so much from the comparisons and also get beyond the unhelpful idea that some histories are 'worse' than others.


You used a variety of sources such as governmental papers, film and museum during your research for this book. How did they influence the book?

I want to study how refugee impacted on everyday life so Journeys from the Abyss uses a very wide variety of sources. It uses more 'traditional' archives such as government records and those of organisations involved with refugee work, but also cultural sources including films, novels, memorials, museums and site visits to show a variety of responses and also the relationship between 'then' and 'now'. It meant travelling to sites connected to major moments in migration crises including places such as Haifa and Lampedusa, both intimately involved with the arrival and containment of refugee arrivals. Studying the journey itself forces the scholar into inventive approaches and finding sources is part of the challenge I faced. My aim thus, is to provide a total history - history from the bottom up and top down but also one that combines and juxtaposes history and memory.


The book addresses the experiences of Jewish refugees. How did you go about researching their experiences? Did any of these experiences particularly stand out to you?

As a social historian, I have always wanted to bring in the voices of ordinary people. In Journeys from the Abyss this means the testimonies of a wide range of refugees - Jewish and non-Jewish. I have thus used a wide range of oral histories, autobiographies and other sources in which we can access the perspectives of forced migrants. These are used critically which is not to say I am dismissing them in importance - quite the contrary. How people remember and re-remember their experiences is vital. Whilst there are many testimonies that stand out, perhaps that of Lore Segal is the most remarkable for me. Her writings are astonishingly self-aware and reveal the dilemmas of being a refugee in the modern era. Lore's family were dispersed across the world and she shows, if it somehow still needed to be explained, how it is not easy being a refugee.


How to you think the book paves the way for further research into the forced migration of Jewish refugees during the nineteenth and twenty first centuries?

The goals of the book are ambitious and there will be some way to go before those in Holocaust studies will place the Jewish refugee experience in a longer tradition of forced migration and, equally, those in refugee studies will take history seriously. Journeys from the Abyss is a start but also a challenge to those working in both fields. I sincerely hope that both established and younger scholars will take it much further.

Tony Kushner is Professor of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, Parkes Institute and History Department, University of Southampton.

More information on Journeys from the Abyss by Tony Kushner.

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Littman Library of Jewish Civilization now available

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Heather Gallagher




LUP is now the proud partner of the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. 

Founded in 1965 by Louis Littman, the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization has grown to become a leader in the publication of Jewish studies. We are also delighted to welcome the arrival of the Library's  prominent series: Polin, Ars Judaica and Jewish Cultural Studies which are now available on our website.

Polin- established in 1986 by the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, has acquired a well-deserved reputation for publishing authoritative material on all aspects of Polish Jewry. Contributions are drawn from many disciplines- history, politics, religious studies, literature, linguistics, sociology, art, and architecture-and from a wide variety of viewpoints.

Ars Judaica - an annual publication of the Department of Jewish Art at Bar-Ilan University. It showcases the Jewish contribution to the visual arts and architecture from antiquity to the present from a variety of perspectives, including history, iconography, semiotics, psychology, sociology, and folklore.

Jewish Cultural Studies - contributes to a greater understanding of the dimensions of Jewish identity as perceived by Jews and non-Jews. It explores the cultural dimensions of homeland and diaspora, assimilation and separation, in Jewish experience and belief along with considering the range of institutions that represent and respond to Jewishness, including museums, the media, agencies, synagogues, and schools.


Littman E-Library of Jewish Civilization 

The new E-Library (LEJC), commences with the online availability of 90 titles as the first step towards digitizing the entire series. The LEJC will include works from leading scholars such as Anthony Polonsky, Rachel Elior, Menachem Kellner, and Ada Rapoport-Albert.

Providing a comprehensive overview of a variety of subject areas including: history, cultural studies, literature, the Holocaust, biography, religious studies, philosophy and women's studies, LEJC includes international perspectives on Jewish civilization from the USA, Israel, Germany, Poland and the UK, amongst others.


Read our interview with Connie Webber, Managing Editor for Littman here.  


For further information and updates on the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, sign up to our mailing list, follow our twitter, or drop us an email. 

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Announcing a new partnership between the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization and Liverpool University Press

Posted on February 08, 2017 by Anthony Cond

Liverpool University Press (LUP) has been selected as the publishing partner of the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (LLJC).


Founded in 1965 by Louis Littman and run for the past 25 years by CEO Ludo Craddock and Managing Editor Connie Webber, the Littman Library publishes around a dozen titles per annum and is widely known as a leading publisher in the field of Jewish studies.


As well as taking over print distribution, LUP will launch the Littman E-Library of Jewish Civilization, making the extensive LLJC list available digitally for the first time.


Anthony Cond, Managing Director of Liverpool University Press said: 'Built and generously supported by the Littman family, and flourishing under the leadership of Ludo Craddock and Managing Editor Connie Webber, the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization is internationally recognised for its outstanding commitment and contribution to its field.’


Ludo Craddock, who will retire as Littman CEO later this year, commented: ‘We have been thinking for some time about placing the LLJC on a firmer footing, finding ways to enhance our marketing capacity, and making our books available digitally. We are delighted to have found in Liverpool University Press what we believe to be the ideal partner for us: an award-winning press with an established reputation in academic publishing, an appreciation for high editorial and production standards, and a record of achievement in marketing and e-book publishing. We are confident that this new publishing partnership will provide stability for the Library’s future and with the greater resources available (especially human ones) enhance our visibility and sales, and provide the necessary basis for future growth.’


Littman titles will be available to buy from this website on 1 March 2017.

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