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Professor Nick (Nicola) Mai

Professor of Sociology and Migration Studies

About

I am a sociologist, an ethnographer and a filmmaker whose writing and films focus on the experiences and representations of migrants working in the sex industry. Through participative ethnographic films and original research findings I challenge prevailing representation of the encounter between migration and sex work in terms of trafficking, while focusing on the ambivalent dynamics of exploitation and agency that are implicated. 

In 2016 I was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant (Sexual Humanitarianism: Migration, Sex Work and Trafficking - 2016-2020) to study impact of anti-trafficking legislation and initiatives on the governance of migration and on the sex industry in the global North by analysing migrant's own understandings and experiences of agency and exploitation in Australia, France, New Zealand and the US.  

SEXHUM website: https://sexualhumanitarianism.wordpress.com/  

In 2014 and 2015 I was based at the Mediterranean Laboratory of Sociology - LAMES (MMSH/Aix -Marseille University) in order to direct the 'Emborders' project, comparing the impact of humanitarian interventions targeting migrant sex workers and sexual minority asylum seekers in the UK (London) and France (Marseille/Paris) through ethnographic research and experimental filmmaking.

Previous Work Experience

After I completed my PhD, from April 2001 to July 2003 I was Research Fellow in the Sussex Centre for Migration Research at the University of Sussex and worked on a Leverhulme Trust funded project on the social exclusion and stigmatisation of Albanian migrants in Italy and Greece. This project was integrated with a second research opportunity, funded by OXFAM UK, examining the specific realities of Albanians migrating to the UK, including the impact of their remittances at home and the issue of the sustainability of return.

From August 2003 to January 2005 I was Morris Ginsberg post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Sociology of the LSE working on the interplay between new forms of transcultural media consumption, the emergence of 'migratory' life trajectories and 'youth' identities, and the eliciting of migratory flows with reference to three transnational spaces: Italy-Albania, Morocco-Spain and Cuba-USA. 

Between 2005 and 2015 I worked at ISET - the Institute for the Study of European Transformations of London Metropolitan University. Until 2007 I was part of the research team undertaking the 'Rhythms and Realities of Everyday Life' Joseph Rowntree Foundation flagship project on immigration and social integration in the UK. The project aimed at understanding the way different groups of long term residents and new arrivals negotiate everyday life across six different sites in the UK: Kilburn/Downham (London), Peterborough, Leicester, Glasgow, Dungannon (N. Ireland).

Between 2008 and 2010 I was the Principal Investigator of a two-year 'Migrant Workers in the UK Sex Industry' ESRC project which produced 100 qualitative interviews with women, men and transgender people and found that only a minority felt that they were trafficked. I am a sociologist, an ethnographer and a filmmaker whose writing and films focus on the experiences and representations of migrants working in the sex industry. Through participative ethnographic films and original research findings I challenge prevailing representation of the encounter between migration and sex work in terms of trafficking, while focusing on the ambivalent dynamics of exploitation and agency that are implicated. 

In 2016 I was awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant (Sexual Humanitarianism: Migration, Sex Work and Trafficking - 2016-2020) to study impact of anti-trafficking legislation and initiatives on the governance of migration and on the sex industry in the global North by analysing migrant's own understandings and experiences of agency and exploitation in Australia, France, New Zealand and the US.  

Main Publications 

Authored Books

Hickman, M., Mai, N. and Crowley, H. (2012) Migration and Social Cohesion in the UK, Palgrave Macmillan.

King, R. and Mai, N. (2008) Out of Albania, Oxford: Berghahn. (Published in paperback in 2010).

King, R., Mai, N. and Dalipaj, M. (2003) Exploding the Migration Myths. Analysis and Recommendations for the European Union, the UK and Albania, London: Oxfam and Fabian Society.

Journal Articles

Andrijasevic, R. and Mai, N. (2016) 'Editorial: Trafficking (in) representations: Understanding the recurring appeal of victimhood and slavery in neoliberal times', Anti-Trafficking Review 7: 1-10.

Mai, N. (2016) "Too Much Suffering": Understanding the Interplay Between Migration, Bounded Exploitation and Trafficking Through Nigerian Sex Workers' Experiences', Sociological Research Online 21(4), 13. Available online: http://www.socresonline.org.uk/21/4/13.html - DOI: 10.5153/sro.4158

Mai N. (2016) 'Mobile Orientations: An Autoethnography of Tunisian Professional Boyfriends', Sexualities, Article first published online: November 17, 2016 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460716651418

Mai, N. (2016) 'Assembling Samira: Understanding Sexual Humanitarianism through Experimental Filmmaking,' antiAtlas Journal, 1. Available online: http://www.antiatlas-journal.net/01-assembling-samira-understanding-sexual-humanitarianism-throughexperimental-filmmaking

Hickman, M. and Mai, N. (2015) 'Migration and Social Cohesion: Appraising the Resilience of Place in London', Population, Space and Place 21(5): 421-432.

Mai, N. (2013) 'Embodied Cosmopolitanisms: the Subjective Mobility of Migrants Working in the Global Sex Industry, Gender, Place and Culture, 20(1): 107-124.

Mai, N. (2012) 'The Fractal Queerness of Non-Heteronormative Migrants Working in the UK Sex Industry', Sexualities, 15(5-6): 570-585.

Mai, N. (2011) 'Tampering with the Sex of "Angels": Migrant Male Minors and Young Adults Selling Sex in the EU', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(8): 1237-1252.

Mai, N. (2010) 'The Politicisation of Migrant Minors: Italo-Romanian Geopolitics and EU Integration', Area, 42(2): 182-9.

Mai, N. (2009) 'Between Minor and Errant Mobility: the Relation Between the Psychological Dynamics and the Migration Patterns of Young Men Selling Sex in the EU', Mobilities, 4(3): 349-366.

King, R. and Mai, N. (2009) 'Italophilia Meets Albanophobia: Paradoxes of Asymmetric Assimilation and Identity Processes among Albanian Immigrants in Italy', in Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32(1): 117 - 138.

Mai, N. and King, R. (2009) 'Love, Sexuality and Migration: Mapping the Issue(s)', Mobilities, 4(3): 295-307.

King, R., Dalipaj, M. and Mai, N. (2006) 'Gendering Migration and Remittances: Evidence from London and Northern Albania' in Population, Space and Place, 12(6): 409-434

Mai, N. (2005) 'The Albanian Diaspora in the Making: Media, Transnational Identities and Migration', in Georgiou, M. and Silverstone, R. (eds) 'Media and Participation in Multicultural Societies', special issue of Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, pp. 543-561.

King, R. and Mai, N. (2004) 'Albanian Immigrants in Lecce and Modena: Narratives of Rejection, Survival and Integration', Population, Space and Place, 10(6): 455-478.

Mai, N. (2003) 'The Cultural Construction of Italy in Albania and Vice Versa: Migration Dynamics, Strategies of Resistance and Politics of Mutual Self-definition across Colonialism and Post-colonialism' in Modern Italy, 8(1): 77-94.

Edited Books and Journals Special Issues

Andrijasevic, R. and Mai, N. (2016) 'Trafficking (in) Representations', special issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review 7.King, R. and Mai, N. (2009) (eds) 'Love, Sexuality and Migration', guest-edited special issue of the Mobilities journal, 4(3).

King, R., Mai, N. and Schwanders-Sievers, S. (2005) (eds) The New Albanian Migration, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

Mai, N. and Schwandners-Sievers, S. (2003) (eds) 'Albanian Migration and New Transnationalisms', special issue of Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 29(7).

Book Chapters

Mai, N (2015) Surfing Liquid Modernity: Albanian and Romanian Male Sex Workers in Europe. In Aggleton, P and Parker, R (eds) Men Who Sell Sex: Global Perspectives, Abingdon: Routledge, pp.27-41.

Mai, N. (2014) Between Embodied Cosmopolitism and Sexual Humanitarianism: the Fractal Mobilities and Subjectivities of Migrants Working in the Sex Industry, in Baby-Collins, V. and Anteby, L. (eds) Borders, Mobilities and Migrations, Perspectives from the Mediterranean in the 21st Century, Brussels: Peter Lang, pp. 175-192.

Mai, N. and Paladini, C. (2013) Flexible circularities: Integration, Return and Socio-Economic Instability within the Albanian Migration to Italy, in Triandafyllidou, A. (ed) Circular Migration Between Europe and its Neighbourhood, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 42-68.

Mai, N. (2011) Marginalised (Male) Young Migrants in the EU: Caught Between the Desire for Autonomy and the Priorities of Social Protection, in Migrating Alone: Unaccompanied and Separated Children's Migration to Europe, Paris: UNESCO, pp. 69-90.

Mai, N. (2007) Errance, Migration and Male Sex Work: on the Socio-cultural Sustainability of a Third Space in Ossman, S. (Ed.) Places We Share: Migration, Subjectivity, and Global Mobility, Lanham (MD): Lexington Books, pp. 97-120.

Mai, N. (2004) Albanian Masculinities, Sex work and Migration: Homosexuality, AIDS and other Moral Threats, in Worton, M. and Wilson-Tagoe, N. (eds) National Healths: Gender, Sexuality and Health in a Cross-cultural context, London: UCL Press, pp.45-58.

Mai, N. (2002) Myths and Moral panics: Italian Identity and the Media Representation of Albanian Immigration, in Grillo, R.D. and Pratt, J. (eds.) The Politics of Recognising Difference: Multiculturalism Italian Style. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 77-95.

Mai, N. (2002) Youth NGOs in Albania: Civil Society Development, Local Cultural Constructions of Democracy and Strategies of Survival at Work, in Schwandners-Sievers, S. and Fischer, B. J. (eds) Albanian Identities: Myth, Narratives and Politics, London: Hurst, pp. 215-225.

Areas of specialism

  • Migration
  • Sexuality
  • Gender
  • Sex work
  • Trafficking
  • Ethnography
  • Filmmaking
  • Humanitarianism
  • Qualitative methods
  • Media studies

Qualifications

  • PhD Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex
  • MA Filmmaking, London Metropolitan University
  • BA Italian with Film Studies, University of Bologna

Research

Research Interests

My research analyses the relationship between migration and the emergence of new forms of subjectivity, agency and vulnerability, which he addresses through different and interrelated research strands. These include:

- the interplay between media consumption and the imagination/enactment of migration;

- the relation between migration, social exclusion and the emergence of diasporic individual and collective identities;

- the mobility of migrant minors and young people from Eastern Europe (Albania and Romania) and North Africa (Morocco and Tunisia) within the EU, their strategies of survival and the associated risks and opportunities;

- the problematisation of immigration as a threat to social cohesion and the related governmental and non-governmental policies and politics;

- the negotiation of gender, sexuality and subjectivity through the migration process, with particular reference to international (female and male) sex work; and

- the impact and governmental relevance of initiatives of social intervention addressing migrant groups which are constructed as vulnerable and undesirable by policies, politics and as well as by academic and public debates, which is the main focus of my current research.

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