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Elena Zambelli is a postdoctoral researcher at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam since November 2017, where she is working on the ERC-funded project ‘EUROMIX – Regulating Mixed Intimacies in Europe’. Between 2014-17 she worked at SOAS (University of London) on an EU-funded collaborative research project entitled ‘“Freedom, dignity and justice”: A comprehensive approach to the understanding of youth exclusion and the prospects for youth inclusion and overall change in the South and East Mediterranean (Power to Youth)’. Between 2016-17 she contributed to a programme of work on women’s economic empowerment and the care economy at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS, Brighton, UK). Elena also has almost fifteen years' international development work experience in different parts of the world, with a particular focus on women’s empowerment initiatives in the MENA region.

Elena is an experienced researcher with a strongly interdisciplinary background. As part of the research team working on the ERC-funded project ‘EUROMIX – Regulating Mixed Intimacies in Europe’, Elena is undertaking research on how the law does race – how it imagines, constructs and reproduces it – through the regulation of the everyday lives of  ‘mixed’ couples in different countries (the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, France). For her doctoral research, she examined the ways in which sexuality, pleasure and work interrogate each other and differently impinge on women’s subjectification and agency according to class and ‘race’. To this purpose, she undertook ethnographic fieldwork across a continuum of spaces where the boundaries between affectivity, work and consumption were blurred (pole dance schools, strip clubs, street- and indoor-based sex work). At SOAS she contributed to undertaking research amongst fourth-generation Palestinian women and men refugees in the diaspora; and at IDS (Brighton, UK) she undertook qualitative fieldwork in Ghana and South Africa to explore the interplay between sexual and economic rights in the lives of young women living in marginalised communities. Elena also has a long-term research and development work expertise on the MENA region: she holds a BA in Political Science (with honours) from the University of Bologna where she graduated with a dissertation in the field of Contemporary History of the Middle East; and subsequently worked and/or undertook research on the MENA region for almost fifteen years.

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Elena teaches in the Minor 'Law and Global Society', where she coordinates the course on ‘Human Rights and Migration: Current Issues, and gives lectures within the course 'Human Rights and the Border'. She also supervises the three PhD candidates who are part of the EUROMIX research project team. At the Institute of Development Studies (Brighton, UK) she supervised students of the MA in Gender and Development in their term paper essays and dissertation writing. For three consecutive years (2008-10) she taught within the ‘Gender, Cultures and Conflicts in the Middle East’ course, which was part of a MA in International Development taught at the University of Bologna. She also has extensive experience in designing and delivering short courses for development professionals, especially in the field of gender mainstreaming. Elena is part of the LOVA network of engaged feminist anthropologists.

Education/Academic qualification

Gender Studies, PhD, SOAS University of London


Gender and Development, Master, University of Sussex

Sep 2005Jan 2007

Political Science, Bachelor, Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna

Sep 1996Jan 2003


  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • GN Anthropology
  • JA Political science (General)
  • JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Elena Zambelli is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Tanzania Social Sciences
sexuality Social Sciences
Italy Social Sciences
research project Social Sciences
experience Social Sciences
Rwanda Social Sciences
Nepal Social Sciences
resources Social Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 2007 2019

Intimate others and risky tenants: disentangling the economy of affect shaping women’s migratory projects in Italy

Zambelli, E., 21 Sep 2019, In : Journal of Political Power. 12, 3, p. 425-442

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access

Between a curse and a resource: The meanings of women's racialised sexuality in contemporary Italy

Zambelli, E., May 2018, In : Modern Italy. 23, 2, p. 159-172 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

women's work
economic value

Sexuality and power in contemporary Italy: Subjectivities between gender norms, agency and social transformation

Zambelli, E., Mainardi, A. & Hajek, A., May 2018, In : Modern Italy. 23, 2, p. 129-138 10 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

An Intersectional Analysis of the Micro-level Factors of Youth Economic and Political Exclusion/Inclusion in the South and East Mediterranean (SEM) Region

Salih, R., Welchman, L. & Zambelli, E., May 2017, Rome, (Power2Youth Papers; no. 38).

Research output: Working paperAcademic