Professor Elena Vacchelli

Professor of Sociology and Academic Portfolio Leader for Sociology

Key details

Elena Vacchelli

Professor Elena Vacchelli

Professor of Sociology and Academic Portfolio Leader for Sociology

Elena Vacchelli is a professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Elena studied Political Science at the University of Milan, Italy, and obtained her PhD at the prestigious Open University's Geography Department, working at the interface between Critical Geography and Sociology. Before her PhD she held academic assignments at the Humboldt University in Berlin and at the University of Milan-Bicocca in Milan.

Elena's teaching and research interests include migration, diversity and social inequality; gender and space; embodiment; art-based and digital research methodologies. Substantial experience in researching diversity and gender in the UK and Europe was acquired through work at local, national and European level while based at the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University (2010-2016).

The outputs from Elena's research have been published in several leading peer-reviewed international journals such as Gender, Place and Culture; Hagar; Cahiers du Cedref;  Research in Urban Sociology; International Migration; Sociological Research Online; Religion and Gender; and Feminist Review. Her track record includes several research reports resulting from research activities with European institutions, third sector organisations and local authorities.

Responsibilities within the university

  • Professor in Sociology
  • Academic Portfolio Lead for the Sociology Programme
  • Faculty EDI Lead for REF 2029
  • Steering Committee - Centre for Communities and Social Justice


2024- 2026 - Co-creating asset and place-based approaches to tackling refugee and migrant health exclusion (UKRI/AHRC) Co-Investigator The aim of this co-produced project is to generate a sustainable, ground-breaking and innovative change in the capacity of UK integrated care systems to effectively integrate existing health provision with community assets, to support cost-efficient, population driven services, which can be delivered locally and regionally to support social inclusion and wellbeing.  Leading on methodological work package.  Coordinated by Anglia Ruskin University.

2024-2025 - MAUSI Net MAUSI* Net: Menopause Artivism in the UK, Sweden and India (AHRC Networking Scheme). Principal Investigator.MAUSI Net is underpinned by a combination of research coordination and capacity building objectives, promoting a transdisciplinary debate across national boundaries by bringing together different stakeholders including academic, national and international menopause charities, women’s organisations, health professionals, corporate EDI representatives and international organisations. The network will also forge a sustainable and supportive scholars’ community fostering visibility of researchers and their findings on place-based socio-cultural understandings of women’s post-reproductive age.

2021-2024 - Integrating diverse values into marine management (SMMR), UKRI/NERC, Co-investigator. The overarching goal of this project is to generate a step-change in the transdisciplinary capability of the UK marine policy stakeholder and research community to implement diverse values into decision making. As part of this project, I am running digital storytelling workshops in three sites in the UK. Coordinated by University of Portsmouth.

2020-2023 - Polygamy matters. Participatory evaluation of polygamy services at MEWso (Middle Eastern Women society organisation) Big Lottery funded, Academic Principal Investigator

2017-2018 - Harnessing policy impact: digital stories of familial practices told by migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women Principal Investigator REF impact fund, University of Greenwich.

2015-2016 - DIVERCITY: Preventing and combating homo- and transphobia in small and medium cities across Europe, Researcher. EU Action grant coordinated by the University of Barcelona.

2015 - Community-based access to perinatal mental health services in London, Principal Investigator with Patricia Jarret. Project funded by Middlesex University's School of Health and Education carried out using a raft of qualitative research methodologies.

2014 - Migrant and Refugee Women's access to community-based mental health services in London, Principal Investigator. Project commissioned by the SPRC and carried out using art-based and participatory methods in collaboration with the Refugee Organisation Evelyn Oldfield Unit's Comic Relief project 'Supporting Women' .

2013 - Needs assessment of Women's Organisations in London, Principal Investigator. The SPRC funded project aims at mapping existing women organisations in London, evaluating barriers to access and needs of women organisations and assessing specific needs that might benefit from gender training.

2013 - A multi-perspective service evaluation exploring tuberculosis contact screening attendance at Northwick Park hospital, Consultant in research methods; Public Health England funded project conducted in collaboration with Jennifer MacLellan, Prof Abubakar at Public Health England, Dr Davidson at Northwick Park hospital. Mixed methods evaluation using questionnaire and in-depth interview data, analysed in NVIVO10 qualitative software package.

2013 - Accessing healthcare: inequalities and discrimination in Enfield, Principal Investigator. The SPRC funded project aims at assessing levels of health inequalities and discrimination in accessing healthcare in the London Borough of Enfield. In particular, it investigates the extent to which local providers of healthcare and health advice are able to cater for minority and vulnerable groups and the extent to which new bodies and structures implemented as part of the NHS reform are engaging with equality legislation and are able to offer mechanisms to implement it.

2013 - EREC (Enfield Race Equality Council) capacity building project, Principal Investigator. The SPRC funded project aims at developing EREC's organisational capacity and providing advice and support in order to build up a long term strategy which would enable the organisation to become economically self-sufficient by 2016.

2012 - Welfare needs of the Afghan community in Harrow (£3,000), Principal Investigator. The research study used a mixed-methods approach to elicit several key findings relating to the Afghan community in Harrow, their service needs and issues of barriers to access and gaps in service provision.

2010-12 - Inequalities and Multiple Discrimination in Access and Quality of Healthcare (£ 429,635/ £ 129,660 to MU) FRA (Fundamental Rights Agency), Researcher. Coordinating team of a 5 country European study including the UK. It involved documentary review of UK policies, development of methodology for qualitative and quantitative analysis; interviews with several categories of hard to reach and vulnerable groups, including young minority ethnic people with disabilities and older ethnic minorities.

2010-11 - Evaluation of the Preventing Violent Extremism-PREVENT Programme and Projects in the London Borough of Barnet (2007-2010), Communities and Local Government; Researcher; interviews and focus groups with several members of Muslim communities in Barnet.

2009-11 - PROSINT Promoting Sustainable Policies for Integration (£ 438,018/£ 67,000 to MU) European Integration Fund project; Researcher; management of UK study involving documentary, parliamentary and media reviews; interviews with different organisations dealing with integration, including those providing ESOL, local authorities, migrant associations; contribution to comparative European analysis.

2008-10 - GEMMA Enhancing Evidence Based Policy-Making in Gender and Migration (€527, 378/€91,143 to MU) EC Framework Programme 7; Researcher; Management of UK study involving documentary analysis. Project focusing on the need for national level strategy to promote working cultures between researchers, policy-makers and civil society organisations.


    International roles
  • Steering Committee Gender Commission of the IGU (International Geographical Union), (2016-2020/ 2020-2024), current
  • Steering Committee Greenwich Borough of Sanctuary Group, current
  • Leadership team Greenwich Citizens UK, current
  • Advisory board Qualitative Research journal, current
  • Advisory board Methodological Innovations journal, current
  • Advisory board Routledge Open Research Human Migration Research Hub, current
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Member of the British Sociological Association
  • Member of the RC21 (Research Committee 21 on Urban Sociology)  of the ISA (International Sociological Association)
    Professional awards:
  • ARC Distinguished Scholar award, Graduate Centre at CUNY (City University New York, USA), Fall 2023
  • Visiting Professorship at the University of Bergamo as part of the STaRs (Supporting Talented Researchers) programme, May 2019

Research / Scholarly interests

My areas of research interest are gender, migrant integration, urban studies and participatory, co-creative and digital research approaches. I have a significant and sustained track record of high-quality outputs and published numerous research reports through years of involvement in local, national and EU-funded research.

I particularly welcome doctoral students who intend to use co-creative and participatory approaches, feminist epistemologies; post-colonial, visual, intersectional, ethnographic/digital ethnography; gender, diversity and migration; local communities and migration,  feminist geography; urban social movements; gender and the city; the civic university.

Recent publications


(2021) Metodi creativi per la ricerca sociale. Contesto, Pratiche, Strumenti [Creative methods for social research. Context, practices and tools]Bologna: Il Mulino (with Alberta Giorgi and Micol Pizzolati)

(2018) Embodied research in migration studies. Creative and participatory approaches. Bristol: Policy Press

Editorships of Special Issues

Special Issue for Discover Society based on two panels organised at the RC21 conference in Delhi, India (September 2019)  focussing on urban youth and the right to the city (with Agata Lisiak) (April 2020)

Special issue for Sociology on 'Migration and crisis in Europe' (2018) (with Dr Nick Dines and Dr Nicola Montagna)

Special issue for the journal Cities (lead editor) 'Gendering the right to the city: critical perspectives' (2018) drawing on Milwaukee conference in April 2015 (lead editor/with Prof Eleonore Kofman)

Special issue for the journal 'Religion and Gender' 2013: 3(1) following a symposium on Gender, Migration and Religion (with Prof Louise Ryan)

Publications in international peer-reviewed journals 

(2023) ‘Participation and contested forms of citizenship in the City of Sanctuary’ (forthcoming) Citizenship Studies (lead author/with Franca Roeschert)

(2021) ‘Using art-based participatory approaches to research experiences of polygamy with Middle Eastern women in London’ Scritture Migranti 14

(2021) ‘“We do the things that matter”: ethics of care orienting medical and social care for forced migrants in Rome’ Current Sociology 71 (3): 398-413. (with Micol Pizzolati)

(2021) ‘Diversity as discourse and diversity as practice: critical reflections on migrant women’s experiences of accessing mental health support in London’ Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 28 (4): 418-435(lead author, with Andreja Mesarič)

(2021)'Invoking vulnerability: practitioner attitudes to supporting refugee and migrant women in London-based third sector organisations' Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 47 (13): 3097-3113  (with Andreja Mesarič)

(2020) 'Diversity as discourse and diversity as practice: critical reflections on migrant women's experiences of accessing mental health support in London' Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power (lead author/ with Andreja Mesarič) (forthcoming)

(2019) 'Invoking vulnerability: practitioner attitudes to supporting refugee and migrant women in London-based third sector organisations' Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2019.1635002 (with Andreja Mesarič)

(2018) 'Beyond crisis talk: interrogating migration and crises in Europe' Sociology 52(3): 439-447 (with Nick Dines and Nicola Montagna)

(2018) 'Towards an inclusive and gendered right to the city' Cities 76, pp.1-5 (lead author/with Eleonore Kofman)

(2018) 'Telling digital stories as feminist research and practice: a two day workshop with migrant women in London'  Methodological Innovations 11(1). (lead author/with Magali Peyrefitte)

(2018) 'From a/topia to topia: towards a gendered right to the city for migrant volunteers in London'  Cities, vol 76, pp 12-17 (lead author/with Magali Peyrefitte)

(2017) 'Embodiment as qualitative research: collage making with refugee, asylum seeking and migrant women' Qualitative Research 18(2), 171-190.

(2015) 'Re-Thinking the Boundaries of the Focus Group: A Reflexive Analysis on the Use and Legitimacy of Group Methodologies' Sociological Research Online, 20 (4): 13 (with Martina Angela Caretta)

(2015) 'Localism and austerity: a gender perspective' Soundings no.60, Summer.

(2015) 'Is it really just the cuts? Neoliberal tales from the women's voluntary and community sector in London' Feminist review 109: 180-189 (lead author/ with Preeti Kathrecha and Natalie Gyte)

(2015) 'Gendered perspectives on integration discourses and measures' International Migration 53 (4): 77-89 (with Eleonore Kofman and Sawitri Saharso)

(2014) 'Gender and the city: intergenerational spatial practices and women's collective action' Les Cahiers du Cedref special edition theme issue: 'Le tournant spatial dans les études genre'

(2013) 'Introduction to Gender, Religion and Migration' Religion and Gender 3 (1): 1-5 (with Louise Ryan)

(2013) 'Mothering through Islam: narratives of religious identity in London' Religion and Gender 3(1): 90-107 (with Louise Ryan)

(2013) 'Researching the urban reflexively: feminist methodological issues' Hagar: studies in culture, polities and identities 11(1): 41-62

(2012) 'Shifting religions and cultures in London's East End'.  Material Religion 9 (1): 86-113 (with Francis Dodsworth and Sophie Watson)

(2011) 'Geographies of subjectivity: locating feminist political subjects in Milan' Gender, Place and Culture (18) 6: 768-785

(2008) 'Milan 1970-1980: women's place in urban theory' Research in Urban Sociology. Special edition theme issue: Gender in an Urban World. Vol.9, 29-51

(2005) 'The gendering of urban space in Berlin and Milan: a comparative perspective' Research and Training Network Urban Europe Series, Nr 1/2005

Book chapters

(2023) ‘Temporalities, Dependencies and the Politics of Marriage Migration’ in UK border: imaginaries, practices, experiences and resistance edited by Kahina Le Louvier and Karen Latricia Hough. London: Taylor and Francis (with Eleonore Kofman)

(2023) ‘Embodied research’ in Encyclopedia of Global Migration: New Mobilities and Artivism edited by Melissa Moralli and Laura Oso. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

(2023): ‘Safe space’ in Encyclopedia of Diversity edited by Mitja Sardoč. Berlin: Springer

(2023) ‘Diversity’ in Encyclopedia of Diversity edited by Mitja Sardoč. Berlin: Springer

(2021) ‘Confronting the ambiguities of safe space in creative and participatory work’ in Re-Conceptualizing Safe Space – Supporting Inclusive Education (ed. by Andrea Bramberger & Kate Winter) Emerald Publishing

(2017) ‘L'idea di 'sorellanza' nelle epistemologie femministe: l'eredita' dell'autocoscienza' [The concept of sisterhood in feminist epistemology: the legacy of consciousness raising] in G. Iacoli and F. Bertoni (eds) Sorelle e sorellanza. Il rapporto sororale nella letteratura e nelle arti [Sisters and sisterhood: sisterly relations in the literature and the arts] Firenze: Franco Cesati (2015)

(2014) ‘City’ in Key Terms in Material Religion (ed.) S. Brent Rodriguez-Plate (with Francis Dodsworth and Sophie Watson)

(2020) ‘Who cares? Urban youth and the right to the city’ (with Agata Lisiak)  Discover Society Issue 79

(2019) ‘Digital storytelling with the Portuguese speaking community in Stockwell, London’

(2018) Invited book review of Looking to London: Stories of War, Escape and Asylum, by Cynthia Cockburn International Migration Review

(2017) 'Looking at family migration through the lens of 'integration crisis': a narrative reflection' Discover Society Issue 44

(2011) ‘Social exclusion in Chinese cities in the 21st Century’ in Chinese Cities in the outside world: a workshop for city, culture and society edited by R. Croucher, P.Li and H. Okano. Urban Research Plaza. CGOE Document 10 (with Anne Daguerre)

(2011) ‘Shaping religious communities in East London’ CRESC Working Paper 102 (with Francis Dodsworth and Sophie Watson)

Research reports

(2022) MAKING GREENWICH INTO A BOROUGH OF SANCTUARY A report into the challenges faced by people from migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds in Greenwich and what we can do about it.  June. Lead author. The report can be seen here:

(2018) Vacchelli, Elena and Andreja Mesaric with Tricia Jenkins and Halaleh Taheri POLYGAMY MATTERS. CREATIVE WORKSHOPS WITH WOMEN IN POLYGAMOUS RELATIONSHIPS. University of Greenwich and MEWso (Middle Eastern Women support organisation) report, July.

(2016) Jarret Patricia, Elena Vacchelli and Andreja Mesaric: THE ROLE OF COMMUNITY GROUPS IN SUPPORTING WOMEN WITH MATERNAL DISTRESS SPRC Report and Department of Health and Education, Middlesex University


(2014) Vacchelli Elena, Alessio D'Angelo and Preeti Kathrecha: ACCESSING HEALTH CARE: INEQUALITIES AND DISCRIMINATION IN ENFIELD, SPRC Report, September



(2013) FRA, Fundamental Rights Agency: INEQUALITIES AND MULTIPLE DISCRIMINATION IN ACCESS TO AND QUALITY OF HEALTHCARE' European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Vienna

(2012) Kofman, Eleonore and Elena Vacchelli: NATIONAL DISCOURSES IN THE MIGRATION-INTEGRATION NEXUS DURING A PERIOD OF ELECTORAL AND POLITICAL CHANGE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM; PROSINT (Promoting Sustainable Policies for Integration) European Commission; Contract: JLS 2008/EIFX/CA/1039 ABAC No Supported under the European Integration Fund

(2012) Kofman, Eleonore; Elena Vacchelli; Alessio D'Angelo and Hannah Lewis: NATIONALFRAME FOR THE INTEGRATION OF NEWCOMERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM; PROSINT (Promoting Sustainable Policies for Integration) European Commission; Contract: JLS 2008/EIFX/CA/1039 ABAC No Supported under the European Integration Fund

(2011) Kofman, Eleonore, Elena Vacchelli and Alessio D'Angelo: LOCAL INTEGRATION POLICIES FOR NEWCOMERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM; PROSINT (Promoting Sustainable Policies for Integration) European Commission; Contract: JLS 2008/EIFX/CA/1039 ABAC No Supported under the European Integration Fund

(2011) Kofman, Eleonore and Elena Vacchelli  SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT OF INTEGRATION POLICIES IN THE UNITED KINGDOM; PROSINT (Promoting Sustainable Policies for Integration) European Commission; Contract: JLS 2008/EIFX/CA/1039 ABAC No Supported under the European Integration Fund

(2010) Ryan, Louise and Elena Vacchelli (2011) EVALUATION OF THE PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM-PREVENT Programme and Projects in the London Borough of Barnet (2007-2010), Communities and Local Government, April Kofman, Eleonore; Erika Howard; Elena Vacchelli; Helena Wray

The impact of gender and racialised identities on the experience of discrimination" in GENDERACE THE USE OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS; GENDER AND CITIZENSHIP IN A MULTICULTURAL CONTEXT edited by Isabelle Carles and Olga Jubany-Baucells EU Seventh Framework Program Grant 217237


Invited talks


USA: Invited seminar as part of ARC Fellowship, Graduate Centre, CUNY October 2023

Finland: Invited talk at University of Eastern Finland (Joensuu Campus), July 2023

Italy: Invited talk at 8th Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference, June 2021

Senegal: Invited talk Dakar “Expert meeting on the cooperation between Africa and Europe, Dakar, Senegal, February 2020

Germany: Invited talk in Berlin, January 2019 (

Italy: Invited talk University of Bergamo, Italy, May 2019

Italy: Invited talk University of Padua, March 2019

Italy: Invited talk at the Atlas of Transitions Biennale 'Right to the City' Bologna, June 2018

Malaysia: Keynote at Researching Women in Society event, organised by the Centre for Research on Women and Gender (KANITA), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), November 2017

Italy: Invited talk University of Cagliari, Conference on political sisterhood, November 2017

Ukraine Keynote Gender Issues in Art, Architecture and Urban Planning. Kiev, Ukraine March 2016


Invited talk QMUL (Queen Mary University London) on City of Sanctuary, November 2022

Invited talk MEWso (Middle Eastern Women society organisation) (online) AGM June 2020

Invited talk London University of East London event on creative research at the Centre for Narrative Research (CNR) April 2019

Keynote plenary stream special event on Migration and the Crisis in Europe at the annual British Sociological Association conference, Glasgow, April 2019

Keynote MEWso fundraising event, May 2018

Keynote Evelyn Oldfield Unit event, April 2019

Invited talk Open University, Engaged Scholarship event, Milton Keynes, UK November 2016

Keynote Evelyn Oldfield Unit 'Supporting Women' conference London, UK June 2016

Keynote Evelyn Oldfield Unit. Engagement event 'Access to Health and Mental Health Services for Refugee and Asylum Seeking Women and Mothers' London, UK Many 2016