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Vanessa Grotti

Associate Professor

Department of Cultural Heritage

Academic discipline: M-DEA/01 Demology, Ethnology and Anthropology

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I am a social and medical anthropologist, currently Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Cultural Heritage of the University of Bologna (Ravenna Campus). I joined Unibo in 2020, after 5 years spent as Part-Time Professor at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (Fiesole), where I was Director of the EU Border Care project. I was trained in France and in the UK, where I spent most of my early career years, as research and teaching fellow at the University of Oxford, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Collège de France (Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale). I left the UK for Italy just before Brexit, in 2015, with the intention of combining career progression with family and heritage, as part of a process of return/circular migration which is not dissimilar to those I now teach and study alongside my MA and doctoral students at Unibo.

I have been conducting field research in Central and Lowland South America since 2002 and in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic since 2015. I have published on medicine and colonialism, maternal and reproductive health, human-nonhuman relations, kinship and gender, personhood, animism and material culture, migration and borderlands, and history and memorialisation. Most of my publications are in English, but I have also published in French, Italian, and Portuguese. I now teach and supervise at all levels, from undergraduate students to postdoctoral researchers, in English, Italian, and French.

My long-standing research interests centre around the study of kinship and reproduction, with a particular focus on relations and encounters of care (and their ontological equivocations), within medical institutions and beyond. In my work, I have proposed the concept of nurture to describe analytically processes of care which are intrinsically asymmetric although they do not appear to be so at first. I have studied these processes in Lowland South America, by documenting historically and anthropologically first contacts, medical missions, and the birth of the clinic in tropical Amazonian borderlands. Anthropological and historical research on the latter was funded by several grants, including the UK ESRC, the Gates Cambridge Trust, the British Academy and the Wellcome Trust.

I have also studied relations of care (at the beginning and end of life) within hospitals and emergency NGO clinics in European borderlands in the Mediterranean and in Overseas France. I was PI of an ERC-funded project entitled EU Border Care (2015-21) which examined migration, maternity care and reproductive health in European borderlands. Together with M. Brightman (Unibo) and N. Ben-Yehoyada (Columbia University) I was also co-investigator on a collaborative project which studies migrant death, mourning and memorialisation in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, ‘Ecologies of Remembrance: The Moral Afterlives of Migrant Human Remains Along the Central Mediterranean Route’ (2018-21).

My new current research project is still centred on relations of nurture and care, and examines human-nonhuman formal and informal cohabitation and reproduction in the increasingly feral and uncontained coastal landscape of the Po Delta (Adriatic). This new project is framed within a larger research consortium I am developing with colleagues from anthropology, design and law at the University of Bologna and the University of Melbourne, around a new interdisciplinary project on the nurture of life and reproduction at the Land-Sea Interface (NURSEA).

I also have two smaller and more personal ongoing ethnographic projects: one is on the social memory and interspecies regeneration of the port of the city of Ravenna, based on the collaboration with dockers, trade unions, students and activists. A more personal ethnographic project explores the ethics of lawlessness and sociality among subsistence farmers in the southern Romagna Appennines. This last project partly involves working on family heritage and oral history, following personal kinship networks and archives.