93244 - Anthropology of Migration

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Vanessa Grotti

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-DEA/01

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language English

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage (cod. 9237)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course places migration in the context of human mobility in general, of the history of colonialism, and of European policy, covering how borders are constructed, the kinds of cultures of humanitarianism that emerge from them, the ethics of migration, hospitality, and the materiality of migration, including ritual aspects of border mortality. The course is taught mainly through the discussion of ethnographic case studies, privileging the point of view of migrants in relation to borders, spatial categories, and their treatment in receiving countries, gendered perspectives on the migration trail and reception, and the dynamics of the informal economy. Students gain critical insight into migration processes, and can develop research and presentation skills.

Course contents

The course is organised around 10 lectures, each dedicated to one specific theme and grounded in ethnographic case-studies from around the world, in order to give students an overview of the anthropology of migration.


The ten lectures are organised as follows (please see below for a detailed bibliography for each lecture):

Lecture 1: The Anthropology of Migration Today.

Lecture 2: 'Not All Sedentary': Mobility as a Way of Life.

 Lecture 3: Slavery and Colonialism: Legacies of Empire on Displacement and Forced Migration.Lecture 4: Medicine and Biopolitics at the Border: Quarantine and the Birth of Border Controls.

Lecture 5: Borders and Borderlands.

Lecture 6: Gender and the Migration Trail.

Lecture 7: Humanitarian Reason and the Ethics of Migration.

Lecture 8: Hospitality, Cosmopolitanism and Diasporas.

Lecture 9: Trauma, Materiality and Memorialisation of Migration.

Lecture 10: Student Presentations on Essay Topic.

Each lecture is 3-hours long (with breaks), and consists of: (1) a one-hour lecture given by the teacher, followed by (2) student presentations and (3) group discussions (spontaneous debates to encourage students to think critically and express their opinions in public).

Student presentations in class (for Lectures 1-9) will be based on readings listed in the bibliography of the designated lecture (please see Bibliography, Teaching Methods and Assesment Methods below for more detailed information). All readings and course materials will be uploaded and contextualised on Virtuale. The final student presentations during Lecture 10 will be based on essay topics chosen by the students who volunteer to present (the essay topic is chosen by the student on a subject they are interested in and has to be proposed to the teacher in order to agree on the bibliography)- this session will provide excellent feedback for the students as they practice their essay ideas in public and will also be an opportunity to revise subjects and readings covered in class.

Students will be able to explore the whole course, including materials, instructions on assesment methods, essay and presentations format etc on Virtuale prior to the beginning of the course. They will be able to start registering for presentations via the Google Doc accessible on Virtuale too.


1. The Anthropology of Migration Today

- Alonso Bejarano, Carolina, Lucia López Juárez, Mirian A. Mijangos García and Daniel M. Goldstein, 2019, Decolonizing Ethnography: Undocumented Immigrants and New Directions in Social Science. Duke University Press. (Intro)

- Gregorič Bon, Nataša, 2017, ‘Movement Matters: The Case of Southern Albania’, Ethnologie française.

- Grant, Colin, 2022, 'Wheel and Come Again: Circular Migration To and From the Caribbean', Lapham's Quarterly.

- Mannik, Linda, 2016, Migration by Boat: Discourses of Trauma, Exclusion and Survival. Berghahn. (Intro)

- Nasser-Eddin, Nof & Nour Abu-Assab, 2020, ‘Decolonial Perspectives to Refugee Migration’, Migration and Society 3(1).

- Triandafyllidou, Anna, 2020, 'Decentering the Study of Migration Governance: A Radical View', Geopolitics.

- Waterson, Alisse (curated by), 2014, ‘World on the Move: Migration Stories’, Open Anthropology: A Public Journal of the American Anthropological Association 2(3). (Intro and selection of chapters).

2. Mobility as a Way of Life

- Aporta, Claudio & Eric Higgs, 2005, ‘Satellite Culture: Global Positioning Systems, Inuit Wayfinding, and the Need for a New Account of Technology’. Current Anthropology, 46(5): 729-75.

- Politis, Gustavo. 1996. ‘Moving to Produce: Nukak Mobility and Settlement Patterns in Amazonia’. World Archaeology 27(3): 492-511.

- Randall, Sara, 2015, ‘Where have All the Nomads Gone? Fifty Years of Statistical and Demographic Invisibilities of African Mobile Pastoralists’, Pastoralism Research Policy and Practice 5(22).

- Rival, Laura, 2002, Trekking Through History: The Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador. Columbia University Press. (Chapter 1)

- Ulturgasheva, Olga, 2016, ‘Spirit of the Future: Movement, Kinetic Distribution, and Personhood Among Siberian Eveny’, Social Analysis 60(1).

- Virtanen, Pirjo, 2016, 'Relational Centres in the Amazonian Landscape of Movement', in N. Gregorič Bon & J. Repič (eds) Moving Places: Relations, Return and Belonging. NY & Oxford: Berghahn: 126-47.

3. Slavery and Colonialism: Legacies of Empire on Displacement and Forced Migration

- Domingues da Silva, Daniel B. and Philip Misevich (2018) 'Atlantic Slavery and the Slave Trade: History and Historiography', in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History.

- Fellin, Melissa (2013) 'The Historical Impact of Western Colonial and Imperial Policies and Interventions on Conflict and Internal Displacement in Somalia', Journal of Internal Displacement 3(2).

- Mustakeem, Sowande, 2017, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex and Sickness in the Middle Passage, University of Illinois Press.

- Oostindie, Gert(2008) 'Migration and Its Legacies in the Dutch Colonial World', in Oostindie, G. (ed.) Dutch Colonialism, Migration and Cultural Heritage, Brill.

- Price, Richard, 2010. ‘Uneasy Neighbors: Maroons and Indians in Suriname’. Tipití 8 (2).

- Singh, Sherry-Ann, 2019, ‘Indian Indentured Laborers in the Caribbean’, in, Ratuva, S. (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity, Palgrave MacMillan.

4. Medicine and Biopolitics at the Border: Quarantine and the Birth of Border Controls

- Bashford, Alison (ed.), 2008, Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization and Security, 1850 to the Present. Palgrave. (Intro)

- Bashford, Alison, 2016, Quarantine: Local and Global Histories, Palgrave, Basingstoke. (Intro)

- Chircop, John and Francisco Javier Martínez, 2020, ‘Introduction -  Mediterranean Quarantine Disclosed: Space, Identity and Power’, in Chircop, John and Francisco Javier Martínez (eds) Mediterranean Quarantines, 1750-1914: Space, Identity and Power. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

- Kim, Jeong-Ran (2013) 'The Borderline of ‘Empire’: Japanese Maritime Quarantine in Busan c.1876–1910'. Medical History 57(2).

- Low, Michael Christopher, 2008, ‘Empire, Pilgrims, Plagues and Pan-Islam under British Surveillance, 1865-1908', International Journal of Middle East Studies 40(2), pp. 269-290.

- Ticktin, Miriam, 2017, ‘Introduction: Invasive Pathogens? Rethinking Notions of Otherness’, Social Research: An International Quarterly, special issue on “The Invasive Other” guest ed. Miriam Ticktin, 84 (1), spring 2017: 55-58.

5. Borders and Borderlands

- Andersson, Ruben, 2014, ‘Time and the Migrant Other: European Border Controls and the Temporal Economics of Illegality’. American Anthropologist 116(4): 795-809.

- Avramopulou, Eirini, 2020, 'Decolonizing the Refugee Crisis: Palimpsestous Writing, Being-in-Waiting, and Spaces of Refuge on the Greek Island of Leros', Journal of Modern Greek Studies 38(2).

-  Dijstelbloem, Huub & Lieke Van der Veer, 2019, 'The Multiple Movements of the Humanitarian Border: The Portable Provision of Care and Control at the Aegean Islands', Journal of Borderlands Studies.

- Green, Sarah, 2013, ‘Borders and the Relocation of Europe’, Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 345-361.

- Katz, Irit, 2017, 'Between Bare Life and Everyday Life: Spatializing Europe’s Migrant Camps', AMPS.

- Pelkmans, Mathijs, 2012, ‘Chaos and Order along the (Former) Iron Curtain’, in A Companion to Border Studies (edited by Wilson and Donnan).

- Wihtol de Wenden, Catherine, 2020, ‘Borders and Migrations: The Fundamental Contradictions’, in Ambrosini, Maurizio, Manlio Cinalli, and David Jacobson (eds) Migration, Borders and Citizenship: Between Policy and Public Spheres. Palgrave.

6. Gender and the Migration Trail

- Farfán-Santos, Elizabeth, 2019, 'Undocumented Motherhood: Gender, Maternal Identity, and the Politics of Health Care', Medical Anthropology.

- Fedyuk, Olena, 2020, ‘Moral Economy of Exclusion: Cases of Childbirth on the Margins of Regularity in the EU’, in Nina Sahraoui (ed.), Borders across Healthcare: Moral Economies of Healthcare and Migration in Europe. Oxford & NY: Berghahn.

- Grotti, V., Malakasis, C., Quagliariello, C. et al. 2018, ‘Shifting Vulnerabilities: Gender and Reproductive Care on the Migrant Trail to Europe’. Comparative Migration Studies 6(23).

- Lowe, Lucy, 2019, ‘Refusing Cesarean Sections to Protect Fertile Futures: Somali Refugees, Motherhood, and Precarious Migration’. American Ethnologist 46(2).

- Mai, Nick, 2016, '"Too Much Suffering": Understanding the Interplay Between Migration, Bounded Exploitation and Trafficking Through Nigerian Sex Workers' Experiences'', Sociological Research Online 21(4).

- Saleh, Fadi, 2020, 'Queer/Humanitarian Visibility: The Emergence of the Figure of The Suffering Syrian Gay Refugee', Middle East Critique.

- Speed, Shannon, 2016, ‘States of Violence: Indigenous Women Migrants in the Era of Neoliberal Multicriminalism’ , Critique of Anthropology,

7. Humanitarian Reason and the Ethics of Migration

- Altman, T, 2020, 'Making the State Blush: Humanizing Relations in an Australian NGO Campaign for People Seeking Asylum', Social Analysis, 64(1).

- Andrijasevic, R. and Mai, N., 2016, 'Editorial: Trafficking (in) representations: Understanding the recurring appeal of victimhood and slavery in neoliberal times', Anti-Trafficking Review 7: 1-10.

- Fassin, Didier, 2011, 'Policing Borders, Producing Boundaries: The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times', Annual Review of Anthropology. 

- Ticktin, Miriam, 2014,'Transnational Humanitarianism', Annual Review of Anthropology 43: 273-289.

- Ticktin, Miriam, 2020, 'On Refugees and Innocence', Public Seminar.

8. Hospitality, Cosmopolitanism and Diasporas

- Ben-Yehoyada, Naor, 2015, “‘Follow Me, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men’: The Moral and Political Scales of Migration in the Central Mediterranean.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22 (1): 183–202.

- Carby, Hazel, 2019, Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands, Penguin Books.

- Clerge, Orly, 2019, The New Noir: Race, Identity and Diaspora in Black Suburbia, UCP.

- Figueroa-Vásquez, Yomaira C. 2020, ‘Look! A Whore. A Black Latina in the Field’, https://www.blacklatinasknow.org.

- Grotti, Vanessa & Marc Brightman, 2021, 'Introduction: Migrant Hospitalities in the Mediterranean', in Grotti, V. & M. Brightman (eds) Migrant Hospitalities in the Mediterranean: Encounters with Alterity in Birth and Death. Palgrave.

- Harney, Nicholas, 2020, 'Interculturalism, Inequality and Hospitality in Italy', Ethnos.

- Kehr, Janina, 2018, 'Colonial Hauntings: Migrant Care in a French Hospital', Medical Anthropology.

Sánchez Gibau, Gina, 2005, 'Contested Identities: Narratives of Race and Ethnicity in the Cape Verdean Diaspora', Identities.

9. Trauma, Materiality and Memorialisation of Migration

- Dalipaj, Gerda, 2016, ‘A Post-Mortem Journey: Ambiguities of Home and Return Among the Albanian Migrants in Greece", In E. Pistrick (ed.,) Deutsch-Albanische Wissenschaftsbeziehungen hinter dem Eisernen Vorhang. Harrassowitz. Albanische Forschungen, 39. Wiesbaden. pp. 75-90.

- De León, Jason 2012. ‘‘Better To Be Hot Than Caught’: Excavating the Conflicting Roles of Migrant Material Culture.’ American Anthropologist 114(3):477-495.

- Grotti, Vanessa & Marc Brightman, 2021, 'Hosting the Dead: Forensics, Ritual and the Memorialisation of Migrant Human Remains in Italy', in Grotti, V. & M. Brightman (eds) Migrant Hospitalities in the Mediterranean: Encounters with Alterity in Birth and Death. Palgrave.

- Hamilakis, Y. 2017 [2016] Archaeologies of Forced and Undocumented Migration. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 3(2): 121-139.

- Langford, Jean, 2018. ‘Gifts intercepted: Biopolitics and Spirit Debt.’ Cultural Anthropology, 24(4), pp. 681–711.

- Soto, Gabriella, 2018, ‘Object Afterlives and the Burden of History: Between “Trash” and “Heritage” in the Steps of Migrants’. American Anthropologist 120(3), pp. 460–473.

LECTURE 10 - Student Presentations & Revision Session.

Teaching methods

The course will be taught through the discussion of ethnographic case studies. The first half of each session will be in the form of a lecture, and the second half in the form of a student-led seminar. Students must read at least three of the texts for each session in advance, and prepare notes and a set of points for discussion. Pairs of students will prepare class presentations, based on wider engagement with course materials and themes, on subjects of their own choice, accompanied by slides, lasting between 8 and 10 minutes, for each seminar. This material will form the basis of an open discussion to delve more deeply into the themes that emerge. During the final session all students will give a second presentation engaging more broadly with different topics across the course.



Students with a disability or specific learning disabilities (DSA) who are requesting academic adjustments or compensatory tools are invited to communicate their needs to the teaching staff in order to properly address them and agree on the appropriate measures with the competent bodies.

Assessment methods

General Assessment for the course will be based on:

- (1) 1 written piece: a 3,000 words essay on a subject chosen by the student in consultation with the teacher (the teacher will always be there to help at all stages of the essay design and writing-up, so do not hesitate to ask). The subject has to be directly relevant (empirically and theoretically) to the Anthropology of Migration course. The essay has to be submitted 7 days (at the latest) before the date of the oral examination. Late submissions without justification will be penalised.

- (2) The oral examination, which will be a discussion of the essay, and how it connects to the course material.

- (3) Active participation in class, especially by volunteering to give student presentations after each lecture (one 15 min. presentation on one chosen reading from the bibliography for the day, with optional slides) but also by engaging (either orally or through the chat, or both) with fellow students and the teacher in spontaneous group discussions. Active, spontaneous participation will win extra points in the final mark for the course.

Registration for oral presentations will be voluntary and open to all from the week before the start of the course, via a Google Doc accessible only to registered students on Virtuale.

The reading list provided is intended as a guide, and students are urged to explore work published in major anthropology journals, such as Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, Social Anthropology, Current Anthropology, Migration and Society, Comparative Migration Studies, and online blogs: https://footnotesblog.com/, https://anthrodendum.org/, https://culanth.org/about, http://fieldworkinitiative.org/.

Office hours

See the website of Vanessa Grotti