Michela Villani is Senior Researcher at the Department of Social science of the University of Fribourg (Sociology). Primarily based in Switzerland, her work joins discussions in the fields of sexuality, gender and migration through a critical analysis of the new forms of displacement of practices and representations and their effects in terms of inequalities. She previously worked on female genital mutilation as public problem, on women’s journeys to clitoral reconstruction after excision in France; on the secrecy of the HIV status of sub-Saharan women living in Switzerland; on racial prejudices and their effects on sexual health of young sub-Saharan people living in Switzerland (currently JASS); on the abandonment of the desire of biological child among heterosexual Italian couples undergoing ART procedures (currently ETHOPOL).
Her current projects bring on sexual dynamics, socialisation processes, representations, practices and risk behaviours of young people of sub-Saharan origin living in Switzerland (JASS - Sub-Saharan African youth and sexual health). This research shows that first and second generation of young immigrants still experience a gender gap in the access to sexual health and sexual rights. Gender roles are tied to a complex dynamic of both respecting parent’s expectations and adapting to the peer’s sexual interactions and codes.
She is member of the Research Program ETHOPOL- Government of familiar feelings funded by the French National Research Agency (2015-2019). As part of the program, she conducted a qualitative research in Italy regarding the experiences of Italian couples undergoing in Vitro fertilisation (IVF). The analysis from this study showed that women, beside their investment in their own body because of the invasive procedures, also invest in and perform emotional work in order to prove their maternal qualities to the medical team.
She holds a PhD in Sociology in 2012 at the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. Her thesis entitled “Medicine, excision, sexuality. Sociology of clitoral repair of women with sub-Saharan origin" was awarded the Paris City Prize for Gender Studies in 2013. Since then she led seminars and teachings in Political economics of feelings, Qualitative Methodology and Ethics, Sociology of migration, gender and interethnic relationships at the EHESS and at the University of Fribourg. She is member of the editorial board of the journal, Genre, Sexualité & Société. Among her major publications, she mentions “FGM in Switzerland: between legality and loyalty in the transmission of a traditional practice” in the Health Sociology Review, “Reparative Approaches in Medicine and the Different Meanings of “Reparation” for Women with FGM/C in a Migratory Context in Diversity and Equality in Health and Care, and “Emotions at (scientific) work: ethical challenges and methodological strategies to investigate an intimate field in Genre, sexualité & societé. Her chapter “The need for clitoral reconstruction. Engaged bodies and committed medicine” (forthcoming) will be published in the book “Body, Migration, (RE)constructive Surgeries: Making the Gendered Body in a Globalized World” edited by Gabriele Griffin and Malin Jordal in Rutledge publisher. She directed the special issue “Bodies and Dissidences. Production, diffusion and circulation of images about gender and sexualities” for Genre, sexualité & société (forthcoming) where she and colleagues edited contributions from feminist scholars and artists critics.