I am a Political Sociologist and my research addresses questions of migration and civil society organisations, with a specific attention to the urban dimension. I joined Aston University as a Lecturer in Sociology and Policy in July 2019. Prior to joining Aston, I worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester as part of the ESRC-funded project The Frames of Altruistic Action. In 2016 I completed a PhD in Human Geography at Durham University, where I focused on the residential segregation of asylum seekers and migrants in Rome (Italy) and Paris (France), with specific attention to strategies of citizenship claim-making and civil society, Third Sector actors, and urban social movements. I recently published a monograph based on my thesis and titled Temporary Camps, Enduring Segregation. The Contentious Politics of Roma and Migrant Housing (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
When thinking about displacement, gender is an important dimension to consider. It allows us to understand the different ways in which men and women are impacted by forced evictions and mobility, highlighting the extra-vulnerability of women, but also to appreciate the different strategies women develop to cope with these difficulties, compared to their male counterparts. In my research on the Roma in Italy and France, I have used the concept of ‘intersectionality’ to investigate how Roma women migrants from Eastern Europe experience poor housing conditions and forced displacement, by looking at how gender discrimination interplays with racial inequality. I am a also member of the French research project MARG-IN (“Marginalization/Inclusion: Regulatory Policies Effects in the Long Run. The Case of Romanian Roma Migrants”) that explore the exclusion and inclusion dynamics of Romania Roma migrants France, Italy and Spain.
Living in segregated and deprived areas, like squats or informal settlements, Roma women become more exposed to gender-based violence and patriarchal attitudes towards gender roles. They are more often victims of sexual violence, and may be forced into marriage with their perpetrators. Because of family concerns around this risk, Roma women — especially teenagers — become more easily target of domestic violence, family pressure and control, which in some cases might result in their relegation into the house and in giving up work aspirations. Sexism within Roma groups is therefore sometimes exacerbated by poor housing conditions.
However, Roma women situation is worsened by the approach of public authorities, which have institutionalised gender-discriminating practices when dealing with evictions and relocations. In Italy, for example, when evicting a Roma settlement, authorities offer an alternative accommodation only to women and children, knowing that the risk of being separated from their husband would likely make the wome turn down the offer. In this case, a focus on gender help us shed light on racist institutional practices that reproduce the marginalisation of Roma groups.
Although, at a first glance, women might appear more vulnerable, they also develop gender-specific forms of resistance in situation of hardship. For example, when experiencing forced mobility, Roma women become (sometimes unwillingly) more dependent on their family. However, the reliance of Roma women on their relatives is also mobilised as a resource during difficult situations, for instance when experiencing homelessness following an eviction. Life in a camp, although challenging, might also offer new opportunities to some women: the possibility to find an (often informal) work, or the establishment of connections with humanitarian help providers who can help them to get eduction and access to health or housing. If we do not consider gender when analysing the case of Roma displacement, we would not be able to fully grasp the complexity of its effects and the heterogeneity of experiences and resistance practices.