Fields of Research in Political Science and Sociology 

  • Comparative politics
  • Political sociology
  • International immigration and immigrant incorporation
  • Critical race and ethnic relations 
  • Comparative research/Qualitative methods in social science

Research Interests in the Field of Migration

  • Citizenship and migration studies
  • Politics of migration
  • Racial and ethnic politics, racism and antiracism 
  • Social movement theories
  • Intersectionality
  • Post-colonial, de-colonial, and critical race theories

Research Interests in the Field of Education 

  • Transformative, community-based pedagogies
  • Critical, feminist, anti-racist, intersectional, and decolonial epistemologies and theories
  • Emancipatory practices

Current Research 

In recent years, the deterioration of the working and living conditions of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Western Democracies has been the cause of immigrant mobilizations and political claims throughout Europe and North America. Several recent interrelated shifts have contributed to these mobilizations, including more restrictive immigration and citizenship laws, the rise of nativist discourses and criminalization of immigrant groups, as well as the restructuration of the labor market. Looking at these developments, my research is organized around two central questions: What are the conditions for political activism and right claims of stigmatized immigrants and ethnic minorities in hostile environments? How do the counter-narratives they promote reshape public debates on what it means to live in pluralistic societies? Drawing on migration and citizenship theories, ethnic and racial studies, as well social movement theories, urban politics, and post-colonial theories, my research examines the root causes of the political claims of immigrant and ethnic minorities, and unveils the conditions that allow stigmatized groups to promote their own incorporation in receiving societies through their struggles for greater rights.


Cappiali, Teresa. Forthcoming 2020. Reframing Resistance: Coalitions, Conflicts, and Racialization in Hostile Environments (Book contract with Routledge) 

My forthcoming book  brings to light how alliances between activists of immigrant background and non-state actors shape the political incorporation of immigrant and ethnic minorities in a hostile Italian national environment. Because cities are where de facto incorporation takes place, my study compares four cities with different political orientations and configurations of power in Northern Italy, in the period between 1998 and 2013. Based on fieldwork in Italy in 2013 and 2014, including nearly 120 in-depth interviews (60 with activists of migrant background), archival research, and participant observation of more than 80 key events and meetings, my study accounts for the key factors that account for differences in forms of civic and political participation by activists of migrant background in the four cities. Using social movement theory to extend the concept of political opportunity structure to migration theories, my study allows me to move beyond the dichotomy structure/agency, and to look at the role of interaction and conflicts among multiple actors. By considering migrant activists as relevant political players, I break with the idea that immigrants are outsiders and passive subjects, and look at their key role in shaping the local arena.

Peer-reviewed articles (selected)

Cappiali, Teresa. 2018. “Ideological Affiliations, Conflicts, and Competing Mobilization Frames: The Role of Pro-Immigrant Allies in Shaping Immigrant Struggles for Greater Rights.” 

This article critically assesses the role pro-immigrant allies play in shaping immigrant struggles for their greater rights. Drawing from original data collected in Italy between 2013 and 2014, it analyzes the conflict-laden organization of “A Day without Us,” a mass mobilization that took place in Italy on March 1, 2010. It explains how ideological conflicts, competing mobilization frames, and struggles for legiti- macy among pro-immigrant groups play a key role in influencing mobilization stra- tegies and outcomes, as do the processes of marginalization of immigrant activists. This study improves understandings of immigrant political mobilization as it shows the mechanisms by which pro-immigrant groups may reduce the scope of immi- grants’ rights claims in receiving societies.

‘Whoever Decides for you Without You He is Against You!’ Immigrant activism and the role of the Left in Political Racialization 


This article examines the relationships between immigrant activists and three left-wing allies—political parties, trade unions, and radical left organizations—in four Italian cities. Drawing on the critical theory literature, I show that the Left has contributed to producing the “otherness” of the migrant population, through what I call political racialization. This is a process whereby left-wing actors, in order to legitimize their work on immigration, have partially included immigrants in the political sphere, but in a relationship of “ethnic” or “racial” subordination. By systematically preventing immigrant activists from taking the floor and shaping their struggles for recognition, they have contributed to producing and reinforcing their marginalization in the receiving society.

Activism of Immigrants in Vulnerable Conditions and Radical Left Allies: A Case Study of Italy’s Struggle of the Crane 

This article analyzes the conditions under which undocumented immigrants engage in contentious politics and why they ally with controversial radical left organizations at the expenses of alliances with institutional non-state actors. I present a new interpretation of this phenomenon often overlooked by the literature: in addition to the state, the targets of immigrant protests are potential allies, such as the Catholic Church and trade union, who have failed to address key issues linked to integration policies and to act in order to prevent undocumented workers’ exploitation in the underground economy.


Other publications 

Cappiali, Teresa. 2018. “An Italian ‘Integration Crisis’: The Role of the State and Political Actors in Excluding Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities.” Matthew Antony Evangelista (ed.) Italy from Crisis to Crisis: Political Economy, Security, and Society in the 21st Century. New York: Routledge.

“The current legislation on immigration has only one rationale: To squeeze the immigrant as much as possible. Then it throws him away” (My interview with a trade unionist of Senegalese origin, Bergamo, Nov 13, 2013).

This chapter centers on Italy’s uneasy transition from an emigration to an immigration country, with a particular focus on responses from both state and political actors to integration challenges. Through an historical reconstruction of some key phases of Italian responses to mass migration, it explains how institutional and political actors have failed to accompany the processes that have come to transform Italy into a multiethnic society. The chapter shows that failure to include immigrants in a welcoming society is owing in large part to the negligence and lack of understanding on the part of most of the actors involved in the integration processes. Among others, the Italian Left has main responsibilities. The chapter concludes by explaining that Italy should not be considered as an “exception,” but rather as an illustrative example of a more general European trend that has come to construct immigrant groups as a “threat” to host societies.