Andrea Muehlebach: "A Vital Frontier: Water Insurgencies in Europe"

Departmental Seminar Series features Andrea Muehlebach, Professor of  Anthropology at the University of Toronto.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

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Photo: University of Toronto


Lately, one often hears about the "new frontiers of finance". But what exactly is a financial frontier? This talk explores this question by tracking recent water insurgencies (over price, contract, lawfulness, and democratic accountability) across Europe. It shows how water – as life, gift, commons, vital public resource, and contested infrastructure – has emerged as symbol and substance through which protesters in Italy, Ireland and Germany have developed a lexicon and series of legal and political tactics to struggle against the everyday effects of financialized public goods. At stake is the emergence of a “vital politics,” where vital urban services and infrastructures have become sites through which the governance of life itself is put to question.

Research profile

My research explores the politics and ethics of economic life. My first book, “The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Italy,” explored neoliberalism’s moral authoritarianism through the privatization of social welfare in Northern Italy.  My second book tracks the politics of water privatization, financialization, and re-municipalization in austerity-era Europe. This work aims to contribute to an anthropology of resource politics and democratic citizenship at a moment where the interlocking crises of capitalism, democracy, and the environment have become more apparent than ever before. Taken together, my work seeks to grasp the every-day life of processes of neoliberalization and to identify moments ranging from subsumption to refusal. Further information: University of Toronto

Published July 21, 2019 4:19 PM - Last modified Aug. 16, 2019 8:48 AM