Dr Elena Zambelli

Senior Research Associate


I am an ethnographer with interdisciplinary expertise on gender and sexuality, race, migration and intersecting inequalities. My research is highly inter- and transdisciplinary, drawing mainly from the Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality; Gender Studies; Sociology – including Socio-Legal Studies; Ethnic, Migration and Diaspora studies and Critical Race Theory.

My main research interests pivot on sexuality, intimacy and migration. In my first book, Sexscapes of Pleasure: Women, Sexuality and the Whore Stigma in Italy (Berghahn Books, 2023), I explore their interplay through the lenses of the market, looking at how Italian and migrant women in Italy negotiate the tension between sexuality and status across a continuum of spaces of sexual consumption and sex work. I have undertaken extensive research on the interplay of national and racialized borders in the construction and experience of ‘mixed’ relationships - first, as part of the ERC Consolidator Grant project ‘Regulating Mixed Relationships in Europe (EUROMIX)’, winning the Best Paper Award (2020) for one of my articles, and currently, as part of the ESRC-funded project ‘Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit (MIGZEN)’. Together with Betty de Hart, I am co-editing a book 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. I coordinated courses and delivered lectures on gender, migration and human rights at the BA and MA level, and I have co-supervised three PhDs in these domains, all of which are about to defend their dissertation.

Before joining academia, I worked for fifteen years in gender and development programmes in different parts of the world and especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This included my role as Gender Expert for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon; the entrustment with evaluation assignments for leading international NGOs, such as Oxfam GB, and the participation in DfID-funded research on care, work and women’s empowerment at the Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex). Building on this long experience in the field and my area knowledge (BA), I co-edited the volume Women’s Networking Across Borders: Cooperation, Diaspora and Migrations between Italy and the Middle East and undertook research on transnational, diasporic and intersectional social movements within the framework of the EU-FP7-funded research project Power to Youth.

I am currently a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Global Networks; the European Sex Workers’ Research Network; the Italian Research Group on Prostitution and Sex Work (GRIPS); the British Sociological Association; 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.

Selected Publications

Sexscapes of Pleasure: Women, Sexuality and the Whore Stigma in Italy
Zambelli, E. 30/11/2022 Oxford : Berghahn Books. 184 p. ISBN: 9781800736856 . Electronic ISBN: 9781800736863.

British-European families after Brexit
Zambelli, E., Benson, M., Sigona, N. 26/07/2022
Working paper

Interracial couples and the phenomenology of race, place, and space in contemporary England
Zambelli, E. 19/10/2021 In: Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power . 19 p.
Journal article

Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit (MIGZEN)
01/06/2021 → 30/06/2023

  • Centre for Gender Studies