Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism : Birkbeck University of London
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Current Research

Pears Institute staff

Professor David Feldman is Director of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism and also a Professor of History at Birkbeck. He studied history at the University of Cambridge and was a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge before becoming a lecturer in economic and social history at Bristol University. He came to Birkbeck in 1993.  In 2010 he was appointed Director of the newly established Pears Institute. The Institute’s programme reflects his belief that the study of antisemitism is not only important in its own right but is also vital to understanding racism, prejudice and xenophobia more widely. His research centres on the history of minorities and their place in British society. In particular, he has worked on three overlapping groups: Jews, immigrants and internal migrants. This work is, in the first place, about the past, but it also addresses controversial issues – antisemitism, racism and immigration - in the present. Find Out More » 

David is co-convenor of the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism. Find Out More » 

David Feldman's publications »

Dr Brendan McGeever is Acting Associate Director of the Pears Institute and Lecturer in the Sociology of Racialization and Antisemitism in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck. Brendan first joined the Pears Institute as an Early Career Research Fellow in April 2015, before taking up the position of Lecturer in April 2016. Brendan’s work focuses on racism, antisemitism and anti-racism historically up to the present day. He is particularly interested in exploring the relationship between racialization and antisemitism, and the extent to which they can be brought together in both teaching and research. Brendan is currently writing a monograph on the Bolshevik response to antisemitism during the Russian Revolution (1917-1921). Based on extensive archival fieldwork in Russia, Ukraine and the United States, this work does two things. First, it explores the articulation between antisemitism and revolutionary politics, focusing in particular on the racialization of class politics within the revolutionary left. Second, it examines the forms of individual and collective agency that brought about the Bolshevik response to this antisemitism and racialization. His next project will explore racism and anti-racism in the contemporary Russian Federation.

Brendan McGeever's Publications »

Dr Diana Popescu joined the Pears Institute as a Research Fellow, funded by the Swedish Research Council, in June 2015. Diana is a cultural historian with a background in Jewish history and Holocaust studies. Her research focuses on performativity, intergenerational memory and material culture looking specifically at the representation of the Holocaust in the visual arts, museum exhibitions and in contemporary public discourse. Diana is currently working on a collaborative research project with art historian Tanja Schult, University of Stockholm.  This project explores audience reception and engagement with artistic and educational projects commemorating the Holocaust that promote a high degree of participation and interaction. The research aims to shed light upon the broad cultural and public significance of performative commemoration and the possibilities it offers for strengthening remembrance as well as social activism, tolerance and civil responsibility.

Diana Popescu's Publications » 

Dr Marc Volovici is an Early Career Fellow at the Pears Institute. He received his PhD in 2017 from Princeton University’s Department of History, where he wrote his doctoral thesis on German and the language politics of Jewish nationalism. This work, currently being revised into a book manuscript, investigates the ways in which late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Jewish nationalists in Central and Eastern Europe, Palestine and the US used the German language – both as a linguistic medium and as an ideological and cultural reference point – to advance the Jewish national cause. The research argues that German stood at the crossroads of key ideological, theological and social currents of modern Jewish and European histories. Being associated with different, often conflicting, ideas of modernization, secularization, assimilation and religious reform, as well as with German ethnic nationalism and antisemitism, German played a multifaceted role in the linguistic and political transformation of Jewish societies since the late nineteenth century. Marc’s next project explores the question of Jewish self-critique in Jewish nationalists’ understanding of antisemitism.

Marc Volovici's Publications »

Postgraduate Research Students

The Pears Institute has a growing population of postgraduate research students. Their research interests explore issues concerned with antisemitism, religious and racial intolerance, multiculturalism, national identity and questions of difference, both in the past and present.

Our PhD students are:

Morwenna Blewett: the use and exclusion of art restoration professionals by the Nazi kleptocracy
Sue Blunn: how and why did British attitudes to the practice of sati change between 1830 and 1870?
Helen Carr: Muslim-Jewish relations in Britain in the late twentieth century
Helen is the beneficiary of the Pears Institute Eric Salama PhD Studentship
Robin Sisson: the relationship between British Trade Unions and black and Asian workers 1968-80

Past Postgraduate Research Students

Associate Research Fellows

Dr Vivi Lachs is a social and cultural historian, Yiddishist, teacher and performer. Her PhD, completed in 2016, offered a new reading of East End immigrant history gleaned from the lyrics of the popular culture of the Yiddish-speaking immigrant community. An examination of poetry, satire and music-hall song, showed details of insider debates on politics, sex and religion, analysed through the lenses of transnationalism and the push for anglicisation. Recent articles concern the London poetry of Morris Winchevsky, and a monograph of Yiddish popular culture will appear in early 2018.

Dr Madelyn Travis was a Rothschild Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute in 2011/12. Her research focuses on the formation, transmission and perception of ethnic, cultural and national identity in children’s literature and culture. Her PhD thesis examined the position of Jews in Britain through representations of Jews and Jewishness in British children’s literature by Jewish and non-Jewish writers from the 18th century to the present day. Her current project explores the cultural history of Jewish childhood in London from 1860-1930. It focuses on debates about the nature of Jewish identity and its relationship to Englishness, both within the established Jewish community and between English Jews and immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Past Research Fellows

Honorary Research Fellows

Dr Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer. His research interests include: sociology of religion, ethnicity and race, Jewish studies, transgression, youth culture and popular music. He has been a visiting lecturer and fellow in Israel, Sweden, Finland and Australia and is currently an associate lecturer at the Open university and Birkbeck, University of London. His most recent book Judaism: All That Matters was published in September 2012 (Hodder Education) and he is co-author (with Ben Gidley) of Turbulent Times, The British Jewish Community Today (Continuum, 2010).

Podcast: Multiculturalism and the British Jewish Community Today - a talk given by Dr Keith Kahn-Harris at the Institute’s workshop on ‘Muslims and Jews: Citizenship, Identity and Prejudice in Europe, the US and Israel’, February 2012.

Dr Louise London is the author of the leading book, Whitehall and the Jews 1933-1948: British immigration policy, Jewish refugees and the Holocaust (Cambridge University Press, 2000). She has published and lectured widely on her research area, the history of British policy towards immigrants, Jews and refugees since 1900. A current project - on Anglo-American policy-making over whether to rescue Jews during the Holocaust - reflects her focus on how policy-making agendas can limit humanitarian aid. Once a practising lawyer specialising in immigration cases, she is now writing an article on 20th century legal restrictions on the rights of aliens.

Visiting Research Fellows

Past Research Fellows