Netta van Vliet
I am an assistant professor of anthropology and women’s studies at College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Maine.
My research and teaching focuses on borders – geopolitical, social, economic, conceptual and corporeal – and movement across and between them. Geographically, I study Israeli state formation and its relation to Europe, the Maghreb, and the Near East. This work takes shape in the interstices of political anthropology, feminist and postcolonial studies, psychoanalysis, critical theory, literature and Israel and Jewish studies. I am especially interested in the politics of language and population relocation, violence and refuge, and in understandings of sexual difference, diaspora, and sovereignty.
These interests all converge on a single question: what are the political implications of how we understand what it means to be human? I have examined this question through an analysis of how Israeli Jews and Zionist narratives both challenge and rely on binary oppositions — between West and East, exile and return, masculine and feminine, and religious and secular –through which a particular notion of the human has been defined. I am interested in how challenges to the boundaries of the human can inform our engagement with political categories such as citizenship, refugee, and asylum, as well as with related concepts such as autonomy and rights.
The courses I teach include Waste; Globalization; Possession and the Human; The Politics of Israel; Transnational Feminist Theory; The Human Non-Human Interface; and Theory and Method in the Study of Religion. The significance of how we understand the human comes up in all these classes, albeit from quite different angles — in terms of histories of colonialism, demography, human rights discourse, the politics of feminist thought and questions about sexual difference, and in terms of how waste productively engages concepts and practices of disposability and value not only in human, but also planetary terms. (You can find more information about these and other classes under “Courses” above.)
Before coming to CoA, I taught and completed my graduate research at Duke University, in Durham, NC, where I received my Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology and the Graduate Certificate in Feminist Studies. Prior to graduate school, I lived in Guatemala for two years over the course of several long-term visits, doing NGO work and conducting field research about the aftermath of the country’s 36-year civil war.
I am currently working on a book, On the Israeli-Jewish Question, based on three years of fieldwork I conducted in Israel about the political practices and claims made in the name of the category “Israeli-Jew.” My writing has also been published or is forthcoming in Anthropology and Humanism, Anthropological Quarterly, Public Seminar, and Critical Inquiry. In my new project, The Politics of Eating with Strangers, I have turned my attention to everyday encounters between asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea, Mizrahi Jews, Palestinians and state policy in and on the borders of Israel.