After a Critique of Secularism

Excess and the Reliquary Logic of American Jewish Holocaust Commemoration

Authors

  • Laura S. Levitt Temple University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.43228

Keywords:

secularism, American Jews, Holocaust, relics

Abstract

Turning to the immanent space of contemporary Jewish life, this essay considers what happens after the critique of secularism to explore Holocaust commemoration in contemporary Jewish life. It argues that part of what the critique of secularism opens up are new ways of exploring these Jewish practices. Without the constraints of secularization’s clear definitions of what is either secular or religious, this essay shows how we can begin to make different connections. Appreciating what scholar of American religion Sally Promey has described as sensational religious practices, this essay explores a set of religiously inflected practices that challenge these norms, practices often made invisible by an abiding set of Protestant secular norms that read embodied, sensational practices as atavistic and objectionable. 

References

Alba, Avril. 2015. The Holocaust Memorial Museum: Sacred Secular Spaces. New York: Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-45137-8

Cesarani, David and Eric J. Sundquist, editors, After the Holocaust: Challenging the Myth of Silence. Abingdon: Routledge.

Costello, Lisa. 2020. American Public Memory and the Holocaust: Performing Gender, Shifting Orientations. Lanham, MD: Lexington.

Crew, Spencer, and Sims, James. 1991. "Locating Authenticity: Fragments of a Dialogue." In Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, edited by Ivan Karp and Steven Lavine, 159-175. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

Diner, Hasia. 2009. We Remember With Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence After the Holocaust. New York: New York University Press.

Friedman, Michelle. 2001. Reckoning with Ghosts: Second Generation Holocaust Literature and the Labor of Remembrance. PhD Dissertation. Bryn Mawr College.

Hansen-Glucklich, Jennifer. 2014. "We are the Last Witnesses": Artifact, Aura, and Authenticity," Holocaust Memory Reframed: Museums and the Challenges of Representation, 119-148. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. https://doi.org/10.36019/9780813565255

Jakobsen, Janet and Pellegrini, Ann. 2008. "Introduction: Times Like These," in Jakobsen and Pellegrini, eds., Secularisms, 1-38. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822388890-001

Kugelmass, Jack and Jonathan Boyarin. 1998. From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Book of Polish Jewry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Levitt, Laura. 2020. The Objects that Remain. University Park: Penn State University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780271088792

---. 2019. "The Allure of Material Objects: Fetishization Reconsidered." Massachusetts Review 60:4 (Winter): 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1353/mar.2019.0097

---. 2008. "Other Moderns, Other Jews, Revisiting Jewish Secularism in America." In Secularisms, edited by Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini, 107-138. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822388890-006

---. 2007a. American Jewish Loss After the Holocaust. New York: NYU Press.

---. 2007b. "Impossible Assimilations, American Liberalism, and Jewish Difference: Revisiting Jewish Secularism." American Quarterly 56(3): 807-832. https://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2007.0062

Linenthal, Edward. 1991. Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Morris, Rosalind C. and Daniel H. Leonard. 2017. The Returns of Fetishism: Charles de Brosses and the Afterlives of an Idea. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Nagel, Alexander. 2010. "The Afterlife of Reliquary" in Bagnoli, Martina et. al., eds., Treasures from Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, 211-222. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Novick, Peter. 1999. The Holocaust in American Life. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Promey, Sally 2014. Sensational Religion: Sensory Cultures in Material Practice. New Haven: Yale University Press.

"The Shapell Center." 2018. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Accessed 2 January. https://www.ushmm.org/collections/the-museums-collections/the-shapell-center

Stallybrass, Peter, and Jones, Ann Rosalind. 2001. "Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe." Critical Inquiry. 28(1): 114-132. https://doi.org/10.1086/449035

Stier, Oren. 2015. Holocaust Icons: Symbolizing the Shoah in History and Memory. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. https://doi.org/10.36019/9780813574059

Sodaro, Amy. 2018. Exhibiting Atrocity: Memorial Museums and the Politics of Past Violence. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. https://doi.org/10.36019/9780813592176

Yerushalmi, Yoseph Hayim. 1996. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Young, James. 2016. The Stages of Memory: Reflections on Memorial Art, Loss and the Spaces Between. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

---. 1993. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. New Haven, MA: Yale University Press.

Published

2021-07-20

How to Cite

Levitt, L. S. (2021). After a Critique of Secularism: Excess and the Reliquary Logic of American Jewish Holocaust Commemoration. Implicit Religion, 23(3), 237–250. https://doi.org/10.1558/imre.43228

Issue

Section

Articles