Drawing on a support program for foreign women, this article discusses anthropological collaboration with local services for migrants in one of the Italian regions most advanced in terms of multicultural policies. Often treated as a pre-given good, collaborative work is here revealed as a site for exploring ways of practicing anthropology with professionals engaged in migrant reception services. On one hand, I examine the potential of collaborative anthropology to interrogate workers’ taken-for-granted assumptions as well as the moral implications and institutional constraints that shape their ambiguous encounters with female “Others,” perceived as both passive victims and manipulative users. On the other hand, I highlight the meaningful position the anthropologist gains to capture the multi-faceted worlds that social actors navigate in their efforts to negotiate blurred rights in a shifting, contested arena. Moving beyond a narrow conception of applied work, I conclude by casting collaborative anthropology as a call for renewed reflection on political engagement in social policies but also as a challenging opportunity for further investigations of local reception services.

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