Marc Brightman

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline Social Anthropology
Lecturer in Social and Environmental Sustainability; Co-director of CAOS, Department of Anthropology, University College London

Research project

Regeneration and Difference: Migration, Agriculture and Sustainability in the Mediterranean


Rural migration in the Mediterranean is at a critical historical juncture. For over a century, rural populations in southern Europe have been in decline, but intensive farming methods, competitive pricing and large scale distribution have increased demand for cheap agricultural labour provided by migrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and further afield, leading to suggestions that the flow of migrants into and across Europe, which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, may offer opportunities for rural regeneration. Such a view faces challenges such as the vulnerability of migrants to exploitation, and mistrust or fear of cultural difference on the part of local populations.


The micro-politics of migrant agricultural work in Europe offers a significant and under-researched case study for understanding the wider tensions between the economic advantages and social challenges raised by the continuing trends of net migration to Europe. This case study in social and cultural relations of food production and the multi-functional roles of migrants in rural economies also helps to bring into simultaneous focus questions of social and environmental sustainability. For instance, it is well understood that biological diversity is necessary for sustainability, and there is evidence that cultural diversity plays an analogous role, and indeed that it is positively related to biodiversity, but the political dimensions of this relationship are poorly understood.


This project will build upon a year’s ethnographic field research, funded by a Leverhulme research fellowship (2016-17), investigating the changing relationships between migrants and local populations in the important agricultural region of south-eastern Sicily, focusing on agricultural landscapes and networks of labour recruitment. The EURIAS fellowship (2017-18) will be used to write a book and some shorter publications on this subject, for academic and general readerships. It will allow time to explore the wider implications of the research, and to develop an international research network and raise further funding for a larger, regional scale project covering various sites across the Mediterranean.





Marc Brightman is Lecturer in Social and Environmental Sustainability at the Department of Anthropology of the University College London and Founding Co-Director of the Centre for the Anthropology of Sustainability. He holds a Ph.D in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. His main research interests relate to questions of sustainability at different scales and to using ethnography and anthropological theory to rethink established ideas and approaches towards sustainability.


Selected publications


The Anthropology of Sustainability: Beyond Development and Progress, with J. Lewis (eds), Palgrave, New York, 2017.


The Imbalance of Power: Leadership, Masculinity and Wealth in Amazonia, Berghahn, New York/Oxford, 2016.

Ownership and Nurture: Studies in Native Amazonian Property Relations, with V. Grotti & C. Fausto (eds), Berghahn, New York/Oxford, 2016.

'Narratives of the Invisible: Autobiography, Kinship and Alterity in Native Amazonia', Social
, [The Animistic Turn. Ethnographic Renewal in a Post-Reflexive World: Special Issue], vol. 60, no. 1, 2016, pp. 92-109.

'Securitization, Alterity, and the State: Human (in)security on an Amazonian Frontier', with V. Grotti, Regions and Cohesion, vol. 4, no. 3, 2014, pp. 17-38.




junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Anthropology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Psychology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Istituto di Studi Avanzati
discipline Biology