Netta van Vliet has been named to the permanent faculty at College of the Atlantic. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

Van Vliet joins COA faculty

BAR HARBOR — Anthropology Professor Netta van Vliet has been appointed to the permanent faculty at College of the Atlantic.

Van Vliet, who completed her doctoral studies at Duke University, has described her teaching and research in political anthropology as interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of postcolonial studies, literature, psychoanalysis and feminist theory.

“Anthropology is interested in questions of difference, and many students may also be drawn to study anthropology because in today’s political climate, within which questions of difference are at the top of the news cycle and often on the top of many people’s minds, learning to grapple with these often complex, sometimes uncomfortable questions is essential,” van Vliet said.

Van Vliet’s background is multinational. Her mother is Israeli, her father Dutch. Born in Canada, she soon moved to the United States. After spending time in Central America and Israel following high school, she did her first year of undergraduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, later transferring to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. She holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology and a graduate certificate in gender, sexuality and feminist studies from Duke University.

“The hiring of Netta van Vliet assures COA’s deep pedagogical commitment to political and cultural anthropology, postcolonial studies and feminist theory. She is an incredible scholar and teacher,” said COA Academic Dean Ken Hill. “Netta’s expertise will help our students explore the complexities of society and become able to address emergent issues in the world.”

In her research, van Vliet focuses on issues of difference, not only of class and ethnicity, but also sexual difference and its relation to other categories of difference, generated in part by the questions posed by a range of political contexts. She asks, for instance, how people choose to align themselves with violence and how they decide how to respond to violence, as well as how the very notion of violence is itself defined in any given context. In her classes, for example, students might be asked to consider the relation between law and justice, when people think it is right to violate the law in order to achieve justice, and what the genealogies of thought are through which ideas of nonviolence, justice and law have taken shape.

“Teaching has been infinitely more rewarding than what I expected,” she said. “The students here are amazing. They have embraced the idea that wrestling with good questions is often more important and rewarding than focusing on finding an answer.”

Van Vliet taught at COA as an interim faculty member in anthropology for several years until the college undertook a formal search and hired her permanently. The courses she has created include Waste, Possession and the Human, Transnational Feminist Theory, and Postcolonial Studies and Psychoanalysis.


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