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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Vilna Bashi Treitler Appointed Northwestern Buffett Faculty Fellow and Weinberg College’s Osborn Professor of Sociology

The Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences are pleased to welcome Dr. Vilna Bashi Treitler as Weinberg College’s Osborn Professor of Sociology and as a Northwestern Buffett Institute Faculty Fellow as of the 2021-22 academic year. Dr. Treitler joins Northwestern from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she served as a Professor in the Department of Black Studies. As a sociologist and visual artist, Bashi Treitler’s scholarship and art centers on the intersection of race, migration, and inequality. She is the 2020 recipient of the Cox-Johnson-Frasier award bestowed by the American Sociological Association for scholarship in service to social justice.

As Weinberg College’s Osborn Professor of Sociology and a Northwestern Buffett Institute Faculty Fellow, Trietler will continue her path-breaking scholarly research while also continuing to convene conversations about race and racism at the United Nations and developing new forms of global networks and collaborative research initiatives at Northwestern Buffett.

“At Northwestern Buffett, we strive to elevate ideas and perspectives that foster meaningful engagement across borders of all kinds.  No one embodies our commitments better than Dr. Treitler. Her boundary-crossing work at the intersection of so many disciplines and approaches is precisely what is so desperately needed in the world today,” said Northwestern Associate Provost for Global Affairs and Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs Executive Director Annelise Riles. “Vilna’s transnational vision will help us at Northwestern Buffett to imagine new ways of addressing critical global challenges, and there is so much that the Northwestern community will be able to learn from her.”

Dr. Treitler is the author of The Ethnic Project: Transforming Racial Fiction into Ethnic Factions, which traces the histories of immigrant and indigenous groups in the United States to show how different ethnic groups have negotiated America’s racial hierarchy and used their social agency to fight for a better racial status, thus perpetuating rather than dismantling structures of race and racism.  The Ethnic Project was included in the Zora Canon, a list of 100 of the greatest books ever written by African American women. She is also the author of Survival of the Knitted: Immigrant Social Networks in a Stratified World, which outlines a new model of immigrant networks and shows how transnational networks shaped black migrants’ socioeconomic adaptation in New York, London, Canada, and the Caribbean.  

She is the editor of Race in Transnational and Transracial Adoption, which engages scholars from both sides of the Atlantic to examine the role that race plays in the adoption process, and co-editor of Dynamics of Inequalities in Global Perspective, which examines how patterns of inequality associated with global capital have been reconfigured in different contexts and have historically produced varied results. Her works in progress include a National Science Foundation-funded study on race and adoption in the U.S. and Europe, and a new book on racial thought. 

In addition to her scholarship, Dr. Treitler has worked to address global social inequalities in numerous professional capacities. Since 2015, she has served as Vice-Chair of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Afrophobia, and Colorism as well as a Board member and UN Representative for the Drammeh Institute, an NGO committed to archiving and producing film footage to educate the world on issues of central importance to the African Diaspora.

Dr. Treitler is also an artist, who works in oil on canvas and Masonite, and in pigment painted and fired on glass. She studied with master painter Sam Adoquei at the Union Square Atelier, and participated in glass painting workshops with master painters Jonathan Cooke and J. Kenneth Leap. Treitler earned her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.