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Dr Elena Zambelli

Senior Research Associate

Bowland North




I am an interdisciplinary scholar with expertise in gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, migration and intersecting inequalities. 

My main research interests pivot on the commodification and regulation of intimacy. In my first book, Sexscapes of Pleasure: Women, Sexuality and the Whore Stigma in Italy (Berghahn Books, 2022), I explore how Italian and migrant women negotiate the tension between sexuality and status across a continuum of spaces of sexualized leisure and sex work. As a postdoctoral researcher, I have expanded my research remit to explore the role of national and racialized borders in the construction of hierarchies of normative and undesirable intimacies - first, at Vrije Universiteit, within the ERC Consolidator Grant project ‘Regulating Mixed Relationships in Europe (EUROMIX)’, and today, at Lancaster University, as part of the ESRC-funded project ‘Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit (MIGZEN)’.

I am currently working on two book projects. The first is an edited volume (Routledge) co-edited with Prof Betty de Hart, entitled Regulating Empire and Nation: Interracialized Intimacies in Europe and Beyond, which will explore the role of the law in the social construction of ‘race’ and ‘mixture’ across colonial, metropolitan and postcolonial contexts. The second is my second research monograph (Manchester University Press) provisionally entitled Mixing in Europe: An Ethnography of Black-White Interraciality, based on my postdoctoral research on mixed-race couples in Europe.

In my academic career, I convened and taught in postgraduate and undergraduate modules on gender, migration and human rights across different institutions - Lancaster University, Vrije Universiteit and the University of Bologna, and I have successfully supervised three PhDs to completion.

Before joining academia, I worked for almost fifteen years as Gender Expert for governmental, UN and non-governmental organizations, and particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region (occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia). This experience underpins the edited volume Women’s Networking Across Borders: Cooperation, Diaspora and Migrations between Italy and the Middle East and my later involvement in the EU-FP7-funded research project Power to Youth.

I am a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Global Networks; the British Sociological Association; the European Sex Workers’ Research Network; the Italian Research Group on Prostitution and Sex Work (GRIPS); the Association for the Study of Modern Italy and the Race, Religion and Secularism Network. At Lancaster University, I am a member of the Centre of Alternatives to Social and Economic Inequalities (CASEI) and the Centre for Gender Studies.

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