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Dr. Willa Johnson

Dr. Willa Johnson
2012-2013 Cummings Foundation Fellowship

"Shoah Art as History: A Sociological and Cultural Analysis of Human Bodily Conditions in the Artworks of Karl Schwesig"

Professional Background

Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. She teaches courses ranging from Genocide and Women to Memory, Testimony and the Holocaust; Social Context of Holocaust Art; Sociology of Disability; Judaism and Religious Ethnic Identities; and Sex, Gender and Ethnicity in the Bible and Popular Culture. Her doctorate is in Hebrew Bible from Vanderbilt University.

Her publications include: a monograph titled, The Holy Seed Has Been Defiled: The Interethnic Marriage Dilemma in the Book of Ezra-Nehemiah (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield-Phoenix Press, 2011); and book chapters including “1, 2 and 3 Maccabees” and the “Sibylline Oracles” in The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2009); and the “Introduction to the Book of Esther” in The People’s Choice: New Revised Standard Version [of the Bible] with Apocrypha (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2009).

Recent papers and presentations are: “From My Place: Teaching the Holocaust at the University of Mississippi Fifty Years after James Meredith,” a presentation at the 2012 American Academy of Religion annual meeting; and a forthcoming publication; “‘Ordinary Brutality,’ Bearing Witness: Memory, Representation and Pedagogy in a Post-Holocaust Age,” prepared for a jointly sponsored conference by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museums and Shenandoah University, April 11-14, 2010. She has also presented a lecture, “Teaching Judaism and the Holocaust at the University of Mississippi” as a guest speaker at Kane Street Synagogue, Brooklyn, NY.

Dr. Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships for public programming at the University of Mississippi and for her research. These include the Association for Jewish Studies-Legacy Heritage Jewish Studies Program Grant awarded for a public lecture series in 2012-2013; Title VIII Research and Training in Eastern Europe and Eurasia Fellowship to study Czech; and a 2010 postdoctoral research fellowship awarded by Yad Vashem Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority for work on Holocaust Art. In 2009, Dr. Johnson participated in the Curt C. and Else Silberman Seminar for University Faculty at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum Washington, D.C. Since 2008, Dr. Johnson has been awarded several grants by the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs, and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for research and data collection on Holocaust Art trips to Israel, Germany, Canada and France.

Dr. Johnson is currently completing a B.A. in Fine Arts at the University of Mississippi.

Fellowship Research

For her Cummings Foundation Fellowship, Dr. Johnson researched “Shoah Art as History: A Sociological and Cultural Analysis of Human Bodily Conditions in the Artworks of Karl Schwesig.”

Dr. Johnson was in residence at the Center from January 1 to August 31, 2013.