Lisa Silverman

Center for Jewish Studies
Associate Professor, Department of History

Office: Greene Museum 120D

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PhD, Yale University
MA, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
BA, Yale University

Teaching and Research Interests

Modern Jewish history, German and Austrian history, Jewish cultural studies, photography, film, Holocaust history and representation, gender studies, and antisemitism.

Lisa Silverman is Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies at UWM. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2004 and holds a Master’s Degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University as well as a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University. She serves as Contributing Editor of the Leo Baeck Institute Year-Book for German-Jewish history and is a member of the editorial board of Shofar: an Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.

She is the author of Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars (Oxford, 2012) and co-author (with Daniel H. Magilow) of Holocaust Representations in History: an Introduction (Bloomsbury, 2015; second edition forthcoming 2019).

She has also co-edited several volumes, most recently Austrian Studies 24: Jews, Jewish Difference and Austrian Culture: Literary and Historical Perspectives (2016), with Deborah Holmes. Her other co-edited volumes include, with Arijit Sen, Making Place: Space and Embodiment in the City (Indiana, 2014) and, with Deborah Holmes, Interwar Vienna: Culture between Tradition and Modernity (Camden House, 2009).

Her numerous scholarly articles include contributions to the Journal of Contemporary History, Shofar: an Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, German Quarterly, and Journal of Modern Jewish Studies.

Since coming to UWM, her curricular activities have focused on reshaping the undergraduate Jewish Studies major and minor by expanding current course offerings, including introductory survey courses in Jewish history and an upper-level course titled The Jews of Modern Europe: History and Culture.

Research Statement

My current research investigates the crucial development and implications of the figural Antisemite for Jews and others in a range of films, texts, plays, photographs, and legal proceedings. My next book-length project, “The Postwar Antisemite: Culture and Complicity in Austria and Germany, 1945-1965,” argues that in the postwar era, Austrians and Germans often turned to, evoked, or suppressed the figure of the Antisemite as a way to come to terms with their altered circumstances and to shape new national self-understandings. As a readily recognizable figure of evil easily adapted to the screen, stage, and in the courtroom, the Antisemite loomed large as a powerful and persistent trope in a wide range of narratives, allowing audiences to avoid facing the implications of crimes committed by the Nazis and to deny widespread, systemic prejudices. Set in motion in Central Europe immediately after the end of the Second World War, the widespread, damaging effects of the figural Antisemite persist to this day.

My first book, “Becoming Austrians: Jews and Culture between the World Wars” was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press. By isolating the years between the World Wars and examining formative events in both Vienna and the Austrian provinces, it demonstrates that an intensified marking of people, places, and events as “Jewish” accompanied the crises occurring in the wake of Austria-Hungary’s collapse in 1918 and left profound effects on Austria’s cultural legacy. By examining the role Jewish difference played in the lives, works, and deeds of a broad range of Austrians, this study reveals how the social codings of politics, gender, and nation received a powerful boost when articulated using the terms of Jewish difference.

In 2015, together with Daniel H. Magilow, Associate Professor of German at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, I co-authored “Holocaust Representations in History: An Introduction” (Bloomsbury, 2015, 2nd edition 2019). Designed for college students, this book traces the development of some of the most significant forms of Holocaust representation since 1945.

I am also co-editor of three interdisciplinary volumes. Together with Deborah Holmes, Assistant Professor of German Literature at the University of Salzburg in Austria, I co-edited “Interwar Vienna: Culture between Tradition and Modernity” (Camden House, 2009), which considers how intensified cultural, social, economic and racial currents shaped Vienna after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the fields of modern dance, theater, music, film, and literature. Professor Holmes and I also co-edited “Jews, Jewish Difference and Austrian Culture: Literary and Historical Perspectives.” Austrian Studies 24 (2016), which reflects a variety of new approaches to examining Jews’ social, political and cultural allegiances beginning in the Habsburg Monarchy through the period after the Second World War, showing how the multifaceted, ever-changing, dynamic discourse of Jewish difference has shaped Austrian culture over the centuries. Together with Arijit Sen, Associate Professor of Architecture at UW-Milwaukee, I co-edited “Making Place: Space and Embodiment in the City” (Indiana University Press, 2014), which brings together essays by scholars in disciplines ranging from geography, art history, architecture and Jewish studies to focus on how people engage urban material and social environments in accordance with the rhythms of everyday life.