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Dr. Ursula Probst

Ursula Probst

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Research Area Medical Anthropology I Global Health

Research Associate (Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger)

Research within VW project "Mobility Regimes of Pandemic Preparedness and Response (MoREPPaR): The case of Covid-19

mailing address: Landoltweg 9-11; office address: Thielallee 52
Room 102
14195 Berlin

Office hours

Due to anti corona measures, counselling hours are offered by skype or telephone only

appointment via e-mail only

Dr. Ursula Probst graduated in May 2022.

Pronouns: she/her

Research Interest:

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Gender and Sexualities
  • Anthropology of the Body
  • (Labor) Migration
  • Urban Anthropology

Regional Focus:

  • Europe

 After graduating in Slavic studies and social and cultural anthropology at the University of Vienna, I completed the MA program in cultural and social anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. In my MA research I investigated perspectives of female sex workers on support services available to them in Berlin and analyzed the therein emerging discrepancies between different definitions of support needs by support services and sex workers themselves. Since 2016, I continued the research on realities and everyday work lives of people engaged in sex work in Berlin as part of my dissertation at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Freie Universität Berlin. My dissertation project deals with the questions how sexualized and racialized dimensions of so-called “Europeanization” processes affect the everyday (work) lives of people from Eastern European countries who work in the sex industry in Berlin and subsequently the negotiation of embodied notions of (Eastern) European belongings in Germany.

 Furthermore, from 2018 to 2019 I served as a coordinator of the Medical Anthropology Young Scholars (MAYS) network, a subgroup of Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE), a network of the European Association of Social Anthroplogists (EASA). Since 2019, I am a board member of the Association for Sex Work and Prostitution Research (Gesellschaft für Sexarbeits- und Prostitutionsforschung, GSPF), an interdisciplinary network of researchers investigating various questions related to the field of sex work and prostitution.


Summer term 2021

BA Übung/tutorial: Methods of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin

Winter term 2020/21

Seminar Sexuelle Ökonomien (sexual economies) (BA)
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin

Summer term 2020

BA Übung/tutorial: Methods of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin

  • Migration, commercial sex and (Eastern) European bodies in Berlin (2016-ongoing)
    PhD research project, supervisors: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger, Prof. Dr. Thomas Stodulka
    From 2017-2020 funded by the Elsa-Neumann-Scholarship of the state of Berlin
    In my dissertation research I am analyzing the everyday (work) lives of people from Eastern European countries who are engaged in sex work in Berlin. The investigation of the diverse realities of Eastern European migrants in Berlin as well as the polarized discussions about “Eastern European prostitutes” in Germany highlight stark contradictions between an idea of Europe and specifically the European Union ensuring equal rights to all its citizens and an in everyday practices racialized and sexualized understanding of Europe which not only defines itself in opposition to non-European “Others”, but also produces inner-European hierarchies based on regional, social or (presumed) ethnic belongings. The embodiment of (presumed) belongings and bodily practices often serve as a means for marginalization, making the issue of “Europeanization” also a question of how the embodiment of “Europe” is or can be negotiated. Building on a critical investigation of embodied (Eastern) European belongings this project focusses on the question how the negotiation of embodied notions of “Europeanness” affects the experiences and perspectives of (labor) migrants from Eastern Europe who engage in sex work in Berlin.
  • Research into prostitution in Northern Ireland (2014)
    Research assistant, PI: Dr. Susann Huschke
    Funded by the Department of Justice of Northern Ireland
    The aim of the research was to provide a better understanding of the extent and characteristics of prostitution and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland. As a research assistant, my main task in this project was to compare and analyze different exit programs in Great Britain and other countries with different legal frameworks for sex work.
  • Support services for female sex workers in Berlin (2012-2014)
    MA research project, supervisors: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger, Dr. Susann Huschke
    Based on ethnographic fieldwork in this project I investigated the perspectives of female sex workers on support services available to them in Berlin. Throughout our conversations, some discrepancies emerged between the support needs of my interlocutors and the approaches of various support services. These discrepancies were based on the issue that, socially and institutionally, support needs of sex workers were mainly framed as a question of sexual health, which contributed to a neglect of other (health related) questions arising in the everyday (work) lives of the participants.


Probst, Ursula: Gewalt in der Sexarbeit: Zur Notwendigkeit intersektionaler Perspektiven auf ein umkämpftes Themenfeld. In: von Auer, Katja, C. Micus-Loos, S. Schäfer und K. Schrader (Hg.): Intersektionalität und Gewalt. Verwundbarkeiten von marginalisierten Gruppen und Personen sichtbar machen. Unrast.


Probst, Ursula: Prekäre Freizügigkeiten. Sexarbeit im Kontext von mobilen Lebenswelten osteuropäischer Migrant*innen in Berlin. Transcript. https://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-6600-7 (open access)

2021 (with S. M. Holmes, E. Castañeda, J. Geeraert, H. Castaneda, N. Zeldes, S. S. Willen, Y. Dibba, R. Frankfurter, A. Kveim Lie, J. F. Askjer and H. Fjeld) "Deservingness: migration and health in social context". In: BMJ Global Health 6 (Suppl 1). 

2020 "Vielschichtige Lebenswelten, komplexe Vulnerabilitäten - zur Lebens- und Arbeitssituation von der Frauen am Straßenstrich im Berliner Kurfürstenkiez". [Multifaceted Living Worlds, Complex Vulnerabilitites - on the Living and Working Conditions of the Women in Street-Based Sex Work in Berlin's Kurfürstenkiez] In: Zeitschrift für Sexualforschung 33 (04): 193-203.

2020 (with M. Schnepf) "Thinking Sex in Times of Corona: A Conversation." In: Somatosphere.

2019 (with K. Buchner and M. Schnepf) „Creative methods and participatory arts research in medical anthropology: Conference report of the 9th MAYS meeting.” Blog Medizinethnologie.

2016 "Stigma, Moral und Zwangsmaßnahmen . Gesundheitsversorgung für Sexarbeiterinnen?". Blog Medizinethnologie.

2015 Von käuflichem Sex, Opfern und Moral – Perspektiven von Sexarbeiterinnen auf Rechte, Sexualität und Professionalisierung im Arbeitsalltag in Berlin. Weißensee Verlag.

2015 "Support for Sex Workers as Occupational Support?" In: Research For Sex Work 15: 19-22.

2014 (with S. Huschke, P. Shirlow, D. Schubotz, E. Ward and C. Ní Dhónaill) Research into Prostitution in Northern Ireland. Research Report.


Selected Presentations


  • (accepted) „… and they do not even have health insurance!” – Uncertainties of health care for migrant sex workers in Germany, XI Medical Anthropology at Home Conference, Oktober 2021, Universität Wien


  • (mit/with Max Schnepf) Thinking Sex in Times of Corona: Ambivalent intimacies and future desires. Seminar Series "The politics and intersections of COVID-19: Critical perspectives from gender studies. Karlstad University, September 2020 https://sola.kau.se/covid19andgender/
  • Sexualizing Europe between “East” and “West”: “Eastern European” sex workers negotiating “Europeanness” in Berlin, 16th EASA Conference “New anthropological horizons in and beyond Europe”, 20.-24. Juli 2020, University of Lisbon


  • (Sex) Work for a better future? Mobilities, hopes and realties of sex workers from Central and Eastern Europe, Anthromob Workshop “Mobility and the Future of Work”, University of Barcelona, 06.-08.11.2019
  • Berlin Kurfürstenstraße: Negotiating Frictions in Urban Transformation, Vortag bei der DGSKA Tagung „Das Ende der Aushandlungen?“, Universität Konstanz, 29. September – 2. Oktober 2019
  •  Can sex work research be a practice of solidarity?, Vortrag beim IUAES 2019 Inter-Congress “World Solidarities”, Adam-Mieckiewicz-Universität Poznań, 27.-31. August 2019


  • Localizing agency and exploitation – Migrant sex workers navigating contemporary Berlin housing markets, Vortrag im Rahmen der Vienna Anthropology Days, Universität Wien, 19.-22. September 2018


  • It’s complicated: Feminismus und Sexarbeit, Vortrag an der Universität Bonn, 05. Dezember 2017


  • Difficult Engagements – Anthropology and Sex Work Politics, 2015 RAI Postgraduate Conference „Anthropology and the Politics of Engagement“, University of Manchester, 4.-5. Juni 2015


  • Locating Research on Sex Work in Berlin, 4th Annual Medical Anthropology Young Scholars Meeting, Universität Tarragona, 10.-11. Juni 2013
Berlin Southern Theory Lecture