Andrea Muehlebach Awarded JHI Fellowship

Photo of Andrea Muehlebach

Prof. Andrea Muehlebach

Prof. Andrea Muehlebach has been awarded a six-month fellowship for 2017-18 from the Jackman Humanities Institute at U of T, one of only six awarded in a very competitive application pool.  Her successful project is titled Property, Right, or Commons? On the Water Insurgency in Europe. Learn more about this project below, and visit t to read about the other fellowship recipients.

Andrea Muehlebach, Department of Anthropology (UTM)
Andrea Muehlebach (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2007) is Associate Professor of Anthropology. She is the author of The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Contemporary Italy (University of Chicago Press) and has published articles in the American Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology, Public Culture, and Comparative Studies in Society and History. Her current work focuses on water and the new political ethics that are emerging around this highly contested resource in Europe. She is on the Editorial Board of Quaderni di Teoria Sociale and Etnofoor.

Property, Right, or Commons? On the Water Insurgency in Europe

My project is a historical-ethnographic exploration of how water has become a vehicle through which Europeans have not only challenged the privatization, commodification, and financialization of water but also proposed new models for the collective care of this precious resource. Having recently completed twelve months of ethnographic research on water insurgencies in Italy, France, Germany, and Ireland, I will be writing a monograph that investigates how water has become a vehicle for Europeans to pursue designs for a better life, all within a context of a Europe reeling from the effects of austerity and a growing democratic deficit. I hope to make two contributions: First, to show that water has become one of the most effective vehicles through which people are pursuing novel projects in law and democracy-making; and second, to demonstrate that water has become an important vehicle through which people have formulated very diverse popular critiques of privatization, financialization, and austerity. I thus respond to a challenge posed by Ben Orlove and Steve Caton, who recently asked what it means to call water a commodity or a right, especially in contexts where these concepts are “highly contested or do not hold sway.” How then can we look to water as a vehicle for novel forms of political practice and social imagination?