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Department of Social Anthropology



I am a social anthropologist with an interest in activism, politics, subjectivity, housing, art, and inequality. My work has focused on the effects of the 2008 recession and housing crisis on young people’s employment and housing opportunities in the Republic of Ireland, as well as the relationship between democratic disenchantment and a range of social movements - especially the campaign to the Repeal the 8th amendment and legalise abortion, and ongoing campaigns for social and affordable housing. More recently, I have also explored the relationship between the housing crisis, anti-austerity activism after 2008, and the rising popularity of the pro-unification and nationalist party Sinn Féin, north and south of the Irish border. 

I am currently the Chandaria Teaching Associate, Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies in Human, Social & Political Sciences (HSPS) at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. Prior to this, I held posts as an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow and a Teaching Associate and Affiliated Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at Cambridge. Since 2021, I have also held a post as a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. I earned my PhD and MPhil at the University of Cambridge and my BA in Anthropology at Yale University, where I specialised in biological and genetic anthropology in a four-field department.


My research is concerned with activism and the political subject, as well as with ethnographic understandings of freedom, power and the state. My doctoral research focused on a group of artist-activists in Dublin critical of gentrification, urban renewal, and the influx of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and American finance capitalism into the Irish state post-recession. My dissertation examined how they mobilise the word “neoliberalism” as a contemporary political claim expressing a lack of trust in liberal democratic governance, and the consequences of this ethnographic case for anthropological approaches to politics and facticity. 

An ESRC-funded postdoctoral research project then examined allegiances to the Irish political party Sinn Féin among young leftist voters and activists. Building on my doctoral fieldwork in and around social housing regenerations in Dublin, I explored how the housing crisis has made it possible for young middle-class leftists and working-class residents in gentrifying neighbourhoods to rally around the party. Bucking trends observed in other Euro-American liberal democracies, then, these two groups evidence that Sinn Féin’s particular brand of leftism is appealing to a broad range of social classes. For these voters, their brand of republicanism and democratic socialism chimes with a broader left-wing, decolonial vision that they see as compatible with nationalism. 

My monograph - entitled 'Critiquing Neoliberalism: Art and Activism in Post-Recession Dublin’ - traces a link between a range of anti-austerity and left-wing activist movements post-2008, the housing crisis, and support for the party. I also have political and legal anthropological work underway on major abortion rights decisions in the US Supreme Court versus the Irish Citizens' Assembly. This is with a view to understanding the links between non-nationalist activist movements and support for Sinn Féin, as well as the role of the Citizens' Assembly as a democratic institution. 

This work will contribute to future comparative research into the relationship between austerity and nationalism in European and American liberal democratic contexts, as well as the intersection between political movements and the shifting characteristics of contemporary capitalism. I am particularly interested in the relationship between neoliberalism, nationalism, populism and the Left, as well as how left-wing political parties and movements interact with right-wing actors in the region. Throughout, I am also interested in how the left-right distinction is understood ethnographically, and in ways that interrupt our expectations of ‘conservative’ versus ‘progressive’ political ideologies. 

Previously, my research interests were focused on minority language politics and the aesthetics of traditional (sean-nós) singing in the west of Ireland and in the Irish diaspora in London. Prior to my Social Anthropology degrees (MPhil, PhD) at Cambridge, I completed my liberal arts BA with a major in four-field Anthropology at Yale University, and a concentration in linguistic and biological anthropology. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the evolutionary genetics of colour vision in owl monkeys (Aotus) and conducted research on the impact of taxonomic designations of biodiversity among treeshrews (Scandentia) in the Malay Peninsula. The results of both projects have been published in Frontiers in Zoology, the Journal of Mammalogy, and the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

(neo)liberalism; liberal democracy; critique; art; activism; capitalism; socialism; imperialism; urban development; (ethno-)nationalism; labour; class; gender


Journal articles


  • Morningstar, N., 2020. Neoliberalism Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology,
    Doi: 10.29164/20neolib
  • Publications


    Morningstar, N. (2024) Critique Refigured: Art, Activism and Politics in Post-Recession Dublin. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 30(3). 


    Morningstar, N. (2022). Everyone’s an artist?: Class, precarity, and the distribution of creative labor. Focaal1(aop), 1-14.


    Morningstar, N. (2021). Bad parrhesia: the limits of cynicism in the public sphere. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale29(2), 437-452.


    Morningstar, N., 2020. Neoliberalism Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology,
    Doi: 10.29164/20neolib

    Morningstar, N. C. 2020. Performing Futility: Post-Truth and the Politics of Insincerity. Anthropological Theory Commons. Accessible at:

    Teaching and Supervisions


    Undergraduate Supervision

    SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

    SAN5 – Ethical Life and the anthropology of the subject

    SAN7 – Ethnographic Methods and Writing


    Undergraduate Lecturing

    SAN1 – Social Anthropology: The Comparative Perspective

    SAN3 – Anthropological theory and methods

    Postgraduate Lecturing

    MP4: Research Design Workshops

    Chandaria Teaching Associate, Bye-Fellow & Director of Studies in HSPS, Fitzwilliam College & Affiliated Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology

    Contact Details

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