Shaylih Muehlmann: The Double Life of Infrastructures in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Event Date: 

Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Girvetz 2128
The Grad Roundtable will take place from 1:30-3:30 in 2001A
The public talk will be in Girvetz 2128 from 4:00-5:00pm with the reception in HSSB 2024
The Double life of Infrastructures in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
In this talk, I analyze the way smugglers working in the lowest ranks of the drug economy in northern Mexico engage with and manipulate the built environment. I show how, in order to move and temporarily store drugs and drug-money, they use warehouses, indigenous trade routes, clandestine landing sites, environmental reserves and other structures and pathways. By examining the nodes of connectivity forged by the narco-economy, I argue that many of the familiar routes and structures along the border live a “double life,” as sites that may have a legal façade while creating zones of storage and passage for illicit goods. Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic research in the region, I examine the way that local indigenous and non-indigenous people participate in making and reproducing the places, structures and routes that connect the U.S and Mexico in one of the most heavily trafficked drug corridors in the world.

Shaylih Muehlmann is Canada Research Chair in Language, Culture and the Environment and Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Shaylih Muehlmann has done her ethnographic fieldwork in the former delta of the Colorado River in northern Mexico. In her first book, Where the River Ends: Contested Indigeneity in the Mexican Colorado Delta (Duke University Press, 2013), Dr. Muehlmann analyzed how local indigenous people have experienced and confronted the state restriction of their fishing at the end of the Colorado. Dr. Muehlmann’s second book When I Wear My Alligator Boots: Narco-Culture in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (University of California Press, 2013), examines the effects of the “war on drugs” in the experiences, aspirations and cultural practices of those men and women working at, and affected by, the lowest levels of the trade.