Muehlebach Profile Picture


Areas of expertise
  • Cultural anthropology
  • Social theory
  • The Welfare State
  • History of Neoliberalism
  • Water


Ph.D. in Anthropology. Department of Anthropology. University of Chicago.

My research explores the politics and ethics of economic life. Currently, I am exploring these intersections via a project that tracks the politics of water privatization, financialization, and re-municipalization in austerity-era Europe. Here, I ask how new political, legal, and ethical futures take root as citizens and municipalities have attempted to reclaim ownership over water. This work aims to contribute to an anthropology of politics and democratic citizenship at a moment where the interlocking crises of capitalism, democracy, and the environment have become more apparent than ever before.

My current project builds on my first book, “The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare and Citizenship in Italy,” which explored neoliberalism’s moral authoritarianism through the privatization of social welfare in Northern Italy.  This initial focus on the every-day forms of neoliberalization has thus expanded, with my new project, to think about the lived effects of financialized public utilities and their infrastructures. Taken together, my work seeks to grasp the every-day life of processes of neoliberalization and to identify moments ranging from subsumption to refusal. I am also an elected Member of the Executive Board for the Society for Cultural Anthropology, as well as on the Editorial boards of Cultural Anthropology and The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology.