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Brigida Proto


"International migrations challenge the ways in which researchers investigate health and empowerment. The project puts in the foreground asylum-seeking women’s experiences of mental health in Berlin and proposes ethnography as an interactive inquiry where migrants, health care providers and researchers address their own troubles, find ties between medicine and social worlds outside of it, together create new arrays of knowledge for territorial action."


Scientific Career

2015 – 2017: IPODI Fellow

2014: three-month visiting scholar, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, USA

2011-2013: Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship for Career Development/ European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013). Grant writer and principal investigator of the research project “Welfare Unbound. The case of urban policies against human trafficking: from Chicago to Sicily”. - Host institutions: University IUAV of Venice, Italy/University of Chicago, USA

2009-2010: European Social Fund Fellowship within the framework of the research project “Regional outcomes of  New Economic Politics in cities of Veneto. Production and transfer of integrated analysis frameworks on the internationalization of cities”, University IUAV of Venice, Italy

2005: one-year visiting phd student,Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, USA

2003-2007: Phd in Regional Planning and public policies, University IUAV of Venice, Italy


Research interests

  • International migrations, women’s health, disabilities and empowerment
  • Space and social inequalities, safety and social policies
  • Urban sociology, microsociology and sociology of public problems
  • Urban ethnography and ethnography of associations




IPODI Research Project

Migrant women’s mental health and urban empowerment.  A pragmatist ethnography on asylum-living in Berlin.

Duration: 8 September 2015 – 7 September 2017

Mentor: Prof. Dr. Nina Baur, Faculty VI, Department of Sociology, Methods of Social Research

Abstract: Therapies for asylum-seeking women’s mental suffering constitute a controversial area of practices and theoretical reflection: they show the limits of emergency approaches, the clashes between western knowledge and ex-colonial cultures, the gender conflicts characterizing new experiences of living. Based on a pragmatist perspective, the research intends to foster an inquiry, in a deweyan sense, on the effects of the 'mechanisms' used to empower mentally distressed migrant women.First, attention will be given to the “unspeakable” experiences of mental health problems as both a professional practice based on the doctor/patient interaction and a dynamic of self-reform changing the boundaries between private and public spaces of living. Second, an ethnographic engagement in Berlin will show the extent to which research may open new empowering relationships between medicine and worlds outside it. Third, as a result, the focus will be on the women’s “micro-arenas” of empowerment, that is, the concatenation of spatialities and temporalities - characterized by different degrees of accessibility, visibility and publicity - through which asylum-seeking women turn their troubles into public problems. The research intends to reconceptualize the issue of women’s empowerment, beyond the current macro, western and secular notion.



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