L'équipe | Post-doctorant.e.s et chercheur.e.s contractuel.le.s

Brigida Proto


Brigida Proto is Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in “Planning and Public Policies” (University IUAV of Venice, 2007). She is currently Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow (2019-2022) for the research project “CosmopolitanCare” - On the frontiers of public health. Care for refugee sex workers in Paris as a case of internationalization of cities – at EHESS in Paris (France). She considers cities as arenas for experimentation of creative relationships between care and empowerment and focuses on the ways in which international migrations give rise – both at institutional and citizen level – to welfare and public health restructuring processes within and across cities and territories. She has a long experience of field research in the interdisciplinary area of urban studies thanks to field inquiries conducted in Chicago (USA), Berlin (Germany), Nairobi (Kenya) as well as in cities of Northern and Southern Italy (towns of the Padua area in Veneto, Palermo and Catania in Sicily). Acting mainly as grant writer and principal investigator for EU-funded research projects, she tries to turn intensive fieldworks into context-sensitive forms of collaboration between academic and non-academic worlds. Her research interests include:

♦ Internationalization of welfare and public health, alternative configurations of care and their new relationships with gender, migration and empowerment.

♦ Policing, its role for community empowerment and urban regeneration processes, its consequences on public spaces.

♦ Field inquiry, ethnography of public problems, urban ethnography and mixed practices of cooperative inquiry.

♦ The Chicago School of sociology and the re-actualization of pragmatism in urban studies and public policy research.

* * *

On the frontiers of public health. Care for refugee sex workers in Paris as a case of internationalization of cities

Migrants’ experiences of public health call for configurations of care other than those provided by the nation-state. On the one hand, international non-governmental agencies have put in the foreground urban governments as strategic actors for people-centered healthcare systems that promote participation, pluralism and accountability; on the other hand, the healthcare needs of growing flows of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arriving to European cities challenge the state as care provider, require emergency interventions provided by humanitarian professionals and, above all, push new actors to show up and trace unexpected constellations of care in the public health arena. “CosmopolitanCare” focuses on the health problems experienced by migrants and asylum-seekers engaged with sex work in Paris, and through these experiences, on the ways in which sex workers turn from caretakers to caregivers and redefine care beyond established boundaries of morality and justice.

In the late eighteen-century panic over the public problem of “white slavery” gave rise to the internationalization of the first feminist-inspired anti-slavery movement, which acted as a backdrop of the contemporary anti-trafficking movement. While the securing of national borders was emphasized and gender and sexuality became object of negotiations between international non-governmental agencies and state powers, cities turned into sites of experimentation of an abolitionist sense of care: the “rescue and redemption” industry, along with the conflation of prostitution and sex-trafficking and the entanglement between prostitution and migratory movements, established the stigmatizing stereotype of prostitutes as absolute feebleminded victims of sexual exploitation.

Nowadays, new processes of internationalization of cities are taking place in the face of the so-called “refugee crisis”. According to media and sex workers’ associations, due to a prolonged legal status uncertainty caused by asylum-seeking procedures, a growing number of migrants is joining sex work in cities – both in the Global North and the Global South –, thus, becoming part of a peculiar urban world, deviant and cosmopolitan, composed of a variety of organizational settings and cohabited by local and migrant populations sharing mobility as a condition of living and work, having different sexual and religious orientations, ethnic and gender identities and expressions while variably engaged in local and international activism to neutralize stigma in a public health arena dominated by the anti-trafficking discourse and its stereotypes.

Migrant sex workers’ experiences of public health in Paris offer an emblematic case to reflect on the consequences of the current treatment of the “refugee crisis” as a social emergency. The Paris government tackles with both the criminalization of prostitution and the repressive management of the “refugee crisis” established by national government while since 2014 it has initiated, in joint action with international non-governmental agencies, the Paris Declaration on Fast Track Cities for Aids prevention, the first international cities coalition for local treatments of Aids. How do migrant sex workers experience health problems in Paris? What kind of conflict, alternations and hybridizations of experiences are taking place at the intersection of different institutional and legal procedures – prostitution, public health, asylum-seeking, etc. - affecting migrant sex workers’ health problems in Paris? What kind of alliances do sex workers – native and migrant, both as caretakers and caregivers – create with different actors – humanitarian and global agencies, national and local governments as well as with abolitionist activists, “pimps” and clients of prostitution – to de-stigmatize over time and space care for sex workers?

To answer, meaningful situated outreach activities will be selected in Paris and/or suburbs for fieldwork while ethnography and action research will be used as complementary modes of “cooperative inquiry” between the researcher and the people with which she interacts: ethnography will focus on care provision in the making; action-research will create moments of collective ex-post evaluation of interventions under observation. Attention will be paid to: (a) the relationship between the diagnosis of emerging health problems and the organizational settings where migrants live in; (b) the practical problems – administrative, medical, nursing, etc. – that sex workers have to deal with as care providers; (c) the translations of sex workers’ health problems in the legal, political and media arenas and the impact on the different populations engaged with care for sex workers.

CosmopolitanCare aims to enact an inquiry with non-academic stakeholders and foster a reflection on the issues of damage and repair in public health, the problems of evaluation and accountability caused by the overlapping of national and international laws, the policy challenges that international migrations are posing to cities as fundamental actors of European welfare and healthcare systems in transition. The research project will foster the experimentation of a people-centered methodology for the evaluation of the accountability of interventions under observation and the establishment of a series of policy recommendations that will be of value to urban policy across EU.


November 2003 – November 2007, University IUAV of Venice (Italy)/ University of Chicago (USA)

Ph.D in Planning and public policies. Ph.D thesis: La cura dell’insicurezza a Chicago. Un’indagine (camuffata) sulla ‘mafiosità’ delle politiche pubbliche e sulle reazioni che suscita [Therapies for insecurity in Chicago. A (camouflaged) inquiry on the ‘mafiosity’ of public policies and the reactions it provokes]. Winner of the national “Giovanni Ferraro Award” 2008 for the best Ph.D. thesis in Territorial Planning.

November 2001 – March 2003, University IUAV of Venice (Italy)/ UN-HABITAT Nairobi (Kenya)

Post-laurea Master in Urban and Regional Planning in developing countries. Final report: From victimization surveys to urban welfare: the crime prevention controversy in Nairobi.

Current position

June 2019 – ongoing, EHESS Paris (France)

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow (2019-2022) for the research project “CosmopolitanCare” - On the frontiers of public health. Care for refugee sex workers in Paris as a case of internationalization of cities.


Previous appointments (selected)

September 2015 – August 2017, Technische Universität Berlin (Germany).

Marie Curie/IPODI (International Post-doc initiative) Fellow (2015-2017) for the research project “Asyliving” - Migrant women’s mental health and urban empowerment. A pragmatist ethnography on asylum-living in Berlin.

August 2011 – November 2013, University IUAV of Venice (Italy)/ University of Chicago (USA).

Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellow (2011-2013) for the research project “Welfare Unbound” - The case of urban policies against human trafficking: from Chicago to Sicily.

March 2009 – February 2010, University IUAV of Venice (Italy).

Research team member as post-doc fellow within the framework of the European Social Fund research project Regional outcomes of New Economic Politics in cities of Veneto. Production and transfer of integrated analysis frameworks on the internationalization of cities.

May 2006 – December 2006, Polytechnic of Milan (Italy)/ PUCA, Ministére de l’Equipement, Paris.

Research team member for the European research project Urban and social insecurity: a challenging theme and learning field for public policies and the development of urban research in Italy.

Publications (selected and single authored)


♦ (forthcoming winter 2020), Gang, Farfalle e Oro. Le cure dell’insicurezza a Chicago [Gangs, Butterflies and Gold. Therapies for insecurity in Chicago], Guerini Associati, Milano. Revised version of the Ph.D. thesis, winner of the national “Giovanni Ferraro Award” 2008 for the best Ph.D. thesis in Territorial Planning.

♦ 2018, Al mercato con Aida. Una donna senegalese in Sicilia [At the market with Aida. A senegalese woman in Sicily] Carocci, Roma, ISBN 978-88-430-7753-3 / Winner of CineMigrare-Pronto Soccorso Letterario 2019 special award at International Filmfestival CineMigrare 2019/ Finalist at the International literary Maria Cumani Quasimodo award 2019.


♦ 2010, «Lizard City: exploring the ‘mafiosity’ of public policies in Chicago», Urban Research & Practice, n.3, issue 3, 313-327.

♦ 2005, «Disobedience for ‘Sicilian’ regeneration: the Catania case study», Trialog, Journal of Planning and Building in the Third World, 2005, n.85, 38-42.

♦ 2003, «Fighting urban insecurity: comments on the victim survey of Nairobi 2000», Trialog, Journal of Planning and Building in the Third World, 2003, n.25, 24-28.

Book Chapters

♦ 2018, «La Scuola di Chicago e l’urbanistica», in V. Romania (ed.), Andrew Abbott. Lezioni italiane. Saggi inediti sulle professioni, la mappatura sociale e la Scuola di Chicago [Andrew Abbott. Italian Lectures. Unpublished Essays on professions, social mapping and the Chicago School] Napoli-Salerno Orthotes Editrice, 25-30.

♦ 2010, «La Città Lucertola. ‘Mafiosità’ delle politiche pubbliche: il caso di Chicago», in PL. Crosta (ed), Casi di politiche urbane. La pratica delle pratiche d'uso del territorio, Milan, FrancoAngeli, 181-199.

♦ 2008, «Palerme, Démocratie féodale et pratiques bourgeoises de rupture», in M. Bricocoli & P. Savoldi (eds.), Villes en observation. Politiques locales de sécurité urbaine en Italie, Sarreguemines, PUCA recherche, 157-184.

♦ 2005, «Insecurity in Nairobi. Towards a ‘glocal’ perspective», in La Greca, P. (ed), Planning in a more globalized and competitive world. Proceedings of XXXIX International Isocarp, Rome, Gangemi, 113-124.

On-line contributions

♦ July 14, 2016, «From the field. Some Notes on the Forum “Healthcare for refugees in Europe: policies and their implications”», www.armut-und-gesundheit.de/fileadmin/user_upload/MAIN-dateien/Kongress_A_G/A_G_16/A_G_16__Material/Dokumentation/Proto__B._76.pdf.

♦ May 5, 2016, «Unusual spaces of cohabitation. Public policies and the neoliberal invention of Chicago, May 5, 2016 in: territoridellacondivisione.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/unusual-spaces-of-cohabitation-public-policies-and-the-neo-liberal-invention-of-chicago/

Research reports

♦ Mid-term, Periodic, Final Report for “Welfare Unbound”- The case of urban policies against human trafficking: from Chicago to Sicily - Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship 2011-2013, European Commission, Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013), January 14, 2013/January 14, 2014.

♦ Mid-term Report for “Asyliving” - Migrant women’s mental health and urban empowerment. A pragmatist ethnography on asylum-living in Berlin – at Technische Universität Berlin (Germany).

♦ Mid-term and Final Report included in the General Report Regional outcomes of New Economic Politics in cities of Veneto. Production and transfer of integrated analysis frameworks on the internationalization of cities, European Social Fund 2009.P.O.R. Veneto F.S.E. 2007-2013 Investiamo per il vostro futuro – Area dello Sviluppo del Potenziale Umano, March 2010

Unpublished works

♦ «Territori Carraro. Come studiare l’impresa ‘itinerante’?» [Carraro Territories. How to study the ‘itinerant’ firm?], book chapter (77 standard pages).

♦ «La città imprenditoriale, attraverso la letteratura. Limiti e potenzialità di una metafora nello studio delle nuove culture di democrazia locale» [The entrepreneurial city, through literature. Limits of a metaphor for the investigation of the new cultures of local democracy] (42 standard pages).

♦ «Città. Dal Labirinto alla Lucertola. Trame spezzate di democrazia urbana», paper selected in a national competition as one of the three best papers to present at the Seminar The Uthopy of Place, Department of Urban Studies, University of Rome Three, Rome, November 10, 2009 (24 standard pages).


flux rss  Actualités

Penser l'intersectionnalité dans l'espace public

Journée(s) d'étude - Vendredi 18 octobre 2019 - 09:30« Penser l'intersectionnalité dans l'espace public »18 Octobre 2019 -  9h30–18hCNRS Pouchet – 59-61 Rue Pouchet, 75017 Paris   Préprogramme9h30-9h45 : Accueil9h45-10h : Introduction de la journée par les organisateurs∙trices, Victor Albert Bla (...)(...)

Lire la suite

Le Brésil a-t-il besoin d'une réforme agraire? Ruptures et continuités d'un débat

Journée(s) d'étude - Vendredi 27 septembre 2019 - 08:45Le Brésil a-t-il besoin d'une réforme agraire ? Ruptures et continuités d'un débatLa journée d'études se tiendra à l'EHESS, 105 Boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris, le vendredi 27 septembre 2019, de 8h45 à 18h, en l'amphithéâtre François Furet. Pr (...)(...)

Lire la suite

Migrations et espaces publics

Colloque - Jeudi 13 juin 2019 - 10:30ProgrammeJeudi 13 juin10h30 – 11h : Accueil et introduction du séminaire11h – 13h : Axe 1 - Définir la situation migratoire. Discours et expériences d'un problème publicHélène Mazin (Max Weber / Lyon 2) : « Accueillir chez soi : entre discrétion et publicisat (...)(...)

Lire la suite

Plus d'actualités

Centre d'étude des mouvements sociaux (CEMS)

54 Boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 49 54 24 27
        +33 (0)1 49 54 25 95