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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Andrea Mühlebach, Bremen

Life as Debt or Debt to Life? Water Insurgencies in Europe

This talk is an early attempt to think about two kinds of debt – and two kinds of forms of valuation – that come into play as public water utilities are financialized. On the one hand, the financialization of water utilities and infrastructures set in motion a politics of frantic municipal debt repayment; as infrastructures become financial assets, they also become vehicles for the measure of future monetary returns that hinge on the calculation of the cost of capital. On the other hand, the financialization of infrastructures also almost inevitably provokes a very different calculus of debt – that of debt to life. Here, water movements articulate a very different kind of value – an incalculable, that is to say transcendent value that derives from all of life’s indebtedness to water. My goal is to offer a glimpse of how this debt to life articulates with and constantly pushes against the ways in which neoliberalism seeks to extract value from life and from the infrastructures like water utiltiies that make it move. 


Map of how to find the event venue is here:,0.119533,17

Friday, 4 November, 2022 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Lecture Theatre A, Arts School