In this lecture I shall consider women as agents and subjects of decisions in the process of mobility from various countries towards and across Europe in the 21st century. My sources will be taken from the European Research Council Research Project “Bodies Across Borders: Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond”, of which I was Principal Investigator at the European University Institute, Florence, 2013-2018 (in terms of publications, the Project’s activities are still in progress). 

The participants in the research (usually defined as “migrants”, but better called “subjects of mobility”) were asked to produce not only oral and written testimonies but also visual ones of their border-crossing itineraries. Women’s testimonies required the deployment of multiple categories to be interpreted: first of all because they show specificity in the types of decisionality and their visual narrations; secondly, because the categories of difference that their narrations display refer not only to gender, but also to geographical, cultural, and ethnic origins, thus calling upon the conceptual tools of intersectionality. Therefore, different ways of being subjects emerge not only along gender lines (women and men) but also among women themselves.

Methodological and conceptual links to EIRENE: Attention to forms of the subjectivity of subjects under study; to intersubjectivity between “researchers” and “researched”; to spatial and temporal movements; to the practical and theoretical implications of “border”; and the terminology used in research. A mention will be made of the trajectories of some women artists working on the topic of the borders of Europe, in order to connect with EIRENE’s work on women intellectuals.


Luisa Passerini is Professor Emerita at the European University Institute, Florence, where she taught History of the Twentieth Century, and Former Professor of Cultural History at the University of Turin. She has studied the subjects of social and cultural change: the African liberation movements; the movements of workers, students, and women in the twentieth century, and the mobility of migrants to and through Europe in the last decades. In this endeavor, she has used memory in its oral, written, and visual forms. She was the recipient of the All European Academies 2014 Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values and is a member of the Scientific Committee of the House of European History, Brussels.

Among her books: 

Conversations on Visual Memory. Florence: European University Institute, Department of History and Civilization, 2018.  

Women and Men in Love. European Identities in the Twentieth Century. New York, Oxford: Berghahn books, 2012.  

Memory and Utopia. The Primacy of Intersubjectivity. Routledge, 2007. 

Europe in Love, Love in Europe. New York: NYU Press, 1999.  

Autobiography of a Generation. Italy 1968. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.  

Fascism in Popular Memory: The Cultural Experience of the Turin Working Class (Studies in Modern Capitalism). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Links for BABE (research project “Bodies Across Borders: Oral and Visual Memories in Europe and Beyond”), funded by the European Research Council (Bruxelles), based at the European University Institute (Florence):

  • Website now including posts previously on blog:  (Site of the Department of History and Civilization, EUI)