Zanna Ramaekers

Zanna Ramaekers is a PhD candidate within the Organs as a Gateway to Europe research project.

Prior research has found that the organ trade has become a means of overcoming barriers and crossing borders in migration journeys. However, little remains known about the interaction between migration dynamics and the organ trade. To fill these gaps, Zanna's PhD project firstly aims to contextualize the organ trade within migration trajectories through the narrated experiences and considerations of people-on-the-move vis-à-vis the sale of their organs. Secondly, the aim is to parallel these experiences against those of transplant professionals- what are their attitudes, knowledge, and experiences towards organ sale in restrictive migration control context and growing waiting lists for patients.

Zanna will conduct ethnographic fieldwork in Greece, Turkey, and The Netherlands. In addition to the traditional ethnographic methods – participant observation and interviews, she intends to incorporate innovative visual (peer-research) methods such as cognitive sketch mapping and/or photo/film/audio-journaling, to expand means for narration. With her research, she intends to generate new knowledge on the organ trade by exploring the strain between agency of people-on-the-move and the creation/exploitation of vulnerability and precariousness. Preliminary research questions include:

1. What restrictions do, or have, people-on-the-move face(d) in exercising their (im)mobility and to what extent do they contribute to (considered) participation in the organ trade?

2. How and to what extent does social embeddedness and various forms of capital (social, financial, political, cultural) impact considerations (not) to sell one’s organ?

3. How do people (who want to be, have been, or are) -on-the-move narrate their knowledge about and/or experience with organ selling? What does this reveal about the modus operandi of the organ trade within the context of (irregular) migration?

4. What are the experiences, attitudes, and knowledge of transplant professionals towards organ selling in a restrictive migration control context, and what do they wish to know?

Before starting her PhD, Zanna obtained a research MSc in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology in 2020 (cum laude) from Leiden University. For her thesis, she conducted independent ethnographic research on the stigmatization of people with albinism in Malawi, where beliefs that their body possess wealth and fortune making properties circulate and place people with albinism at risk of being kidnapped, raped, murdered, and having their limbs amputated. Following her interests in medical anthropology and criminology, Zanna pursued an advanced MSc in Governance and Development at Antwerp University and graduated with magna cum laude in 2022. Her thesis focused on migration studies, specifically the current efforts taken in Flemish education to break stereotypic thinking about migration and migrants, and to spark a dialogue about the need to delve deeper into visible and hidden mechanisms involved in migration stories.


MA theses

  • Ramaekers, Z. (2022). The importance of discussing migration in Flemish education: an analysis for, and of, the VRT’s upcoming EDUbox [Master’s thesis, Antwerp University]
  • Ramaekers, Z. (2020). The power of rumours: violence against people with albinism and
    political crisis in Malawi [Master’s thesis, Leiden University]. Leiden University Libraries. available at: