Shifting vulnerabilities: gender and reproductive care on the migrant trail to Europe

Vanessa Grotti, Cynthia Malakasis, Chiara Quagliariello, Nina Sahraoui

The reproductive care of pregnant migrants entering the European Union via its Mediterranean borders represents an under-examined topic, despite a growing scholarly emphasis on female migrants and the gendered aspects of migration in the past three decades. This article uses ethnographic data gathered in Greece, Italy, and Spain to examine pregnant migrants’ experiences of crossing, first reception, and reproductive care. We discuss our findings through the conceptual lens of vulnerability, which we understand as a shifting and relational condition attributed to, or dynamically endorsed by, migrant patients within given social contexts and encounters. We focus on two principal aspects of migrant women’s experiences. First, we shed light on their profiles, their journeys to Europe via the three main Mediterranean routes, and the conditions of first reception. Through ethnographic vignettes we examine the diverse ways in which pregnant migrants become vulnerable within these contexts. Second, we turn to the reproductive healthcare they receive in EU borderlands. We explore how declinations of ideas of vulnerability shape the medical encounter between healthcare professionals and migrant women and how vulnerability is dynamically used or contested by migrant patients to engage in meaningful social relations in unpredictable and unstable borderlands.

Grotti, V., Malakasis, C., Quagliariello, C. et al. Shifting vulnerabilities: gender and reproductive care on the migrant trail to Europe. CMS 6, 23 (2018).

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