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Vanessa Grotti

Part-time Professor, Director of the EU BORDER CARE project 

grottiEmail: [email protected]  

Tel [+39] 055 4685 - 732

Office: Villino, VL036 

Administrative Assistant: Julia Hiltrop

Biographical Note

I am a social and medical anthropologist interested in the study of kinship, personhood and reproduction, especially in contexts of social change and crisis. My primary field of expertise is South America, where I have been working for the past 12 years. I have also been conducting fieldwork in Europe and West Africa since 2007.

I was trained in history and anthropology and was awarded my PhD in Cambridge in 2007. I have held research and teaching positions at the Collège de France, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Oxford University. My research has been funded by the UK-ESRC, the Wellcome Trust, the British Academy, the Gates Cambridge Trust, the Ville de Paris, Trinity College (Cambridge), Wolfson College (Oxford), the Ling Roth Fund and the John Fell-OUP Fund.

I recently joined the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies as Part-time Professor to lead a project funded by an ERC Starting Grant and entitled 'Intimate Encounters in EU Borderlands: Migrant Maternity, Sovereignty and the Politics of Care on Europe's Periphery'-EU BORDER CARE (2015-2020).

Research Interests

As an anthropologist my main research interests revolve around the study of kinship and personhood, especially through the lens of the body. I explore symmetrically how relations between people are made and unmade in relation to their social and living environment, and how continuity is produced in contexts of dramatic change and crisis. In practice, this means that I spend a lot of time in the field, recording life histories, documenting social landscapes, living alongside local hosts and interviewing policymakers and officials. My new ERC-funded project which I lead at the RSCAS is precisely based on this ethnographic methodology.

Over the years, I have increasingly focused on medicine, health and care delivery in cross-cultural contexts. I am particularly interested in the intersection between hierarchy, morality and care, and in the historical and contemporary link between colonialism and humanitarianism. I have investigated these questions in particular in my analysis of primary healthcare networks, first contacts and colonial expansion in northern Amazonia. Since 2011, I have started to work on minorities, migration and reproductive healthcare in borderlands, in particular on Europe's remote peripheries.

My current research interests revolve around the following themes: secular and missionary medicine; biomedical institutions and ethics; life histories; morality and care; colonialism and humanitarianism; migration and borderlands; citizenship; sovereignty and belonging.


I have published on a range of topics covering first contacts, shamanism, religion, trade and objects, health and medicine, extractive industries, migration and human security.


- (forthcoming) Living with the Enemy: First Contacts and the Making of Christian Bodies in Amazonia. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Publishers.

Edited volumes:

- (2012) Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals and Non-humans in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. Co-editor with M. Brightman & O. Ulturgasheva. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Publishers.

- (in press, out 2015) Ownership and Nurture: Studies in Native Amazonian Property Relations. Co-editor with M. Brightman & C. Fausto. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Publishers.

Journal articles:

- (in press, out spring 2016) 'Narrating the Invisible: Autobiography, Kinship and Alterity in Native Amazonia', co-authored with M. Brightman. Social Analysis, Special Issue edited by K. Swancutt & M. Mazard.

- (2014) 'Securitization, Alterity and the State: Human (In)Security on an Amazonian Frontier', co-authored with M. Brightman. Regions and Cohesion 4(3).

- (2012) ‘Happy with the Enemy: Kinship, Pacification and Corporeal Transformations in Trio Beer Feasts, Northeastern Amazonia’, Anthropology and Humanism 37(2).

- (2012) ‘The Wealth of the Body: Trade Relations, Objects and Personhood in Northeastern Amazonia’. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 18(1).

- (2010) ‘Nurturing the Other: Contact Expeditions and Inter-ethnic Relations in Northeastern Amazonia’, OSO, Tijdschrift voor Surinamistiek en het Caraïbisch Gebied 29(2).

- (2010) ‘The Other’s Other: Nurturing the Bodies of ‘Wild’ People Among the Trio of Southern Suriname’, co-authored with M. Brightman, Etnofoor 22(2).

- (2009) ‘Un Corps en Mouvement: Parenté, “Diffusion de l’Influence” et Transformations Corporelles dans les Fêtes de Bière Tirio, Amazonie du Nord-est’, Journal de la Société des Américanistes de Paris 91(1).

Book chapters:

- (2013) ‘Christian Bodies, Other Bodies: Processes of Conversion and Transformation in Northeastern Amazonia’, in S. Botta (ed.) Manufacturing Otherness: Missions and Indigenous Cultures in Latin America, Newcastle upon Thyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

- (2012) ‘Introduction: Shamanism, Ecology and Invisible Worlds: The Place of Non-humans in Indigenous Ontologies’, co-authored with M. Brightman & O. Ulturgasheva, in M. Brightman, V. Grotti & O. Ulturgasheva (eds) Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals and Non-humans in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Publishers.

- (2012) ‘Humanity, Personhood and Transformability in Northern Amazonia’, co-authored with M. Brightman, in M. Brightman, V. Grotti & O. Ulturgasheva (eds) Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals and Non-humans in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Publishers.

- (2011) ‘Like Scars on the Body’s Skin: The Display of Ancient Things in Trio Houses, Northeastern Amazonia’, in P. Fortis & I. Praet (eds) Exploring the Dangers and Virtues of Ancient Things. Special issue of the Journal of the Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

- (2009) ‘Protestant Evangelism and the Transformability of Amerindian Bodies in Northern Amazonia’, in A. Vilaça & R. Wright (eds) Native Christians: Modes and Effects of Christianity Among Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. London: Ashgate.


- (2012) ‘Review of Vilaça, Aparecida (2010) Strange Enemies: Indigenous Agency and Scenes of Encounters in Amazonia. Duke University Press (Durham and London)’, Bulletin of Latin American Research 31(4).

Page last updated on 18 August 2017