Shaylih Muehlmann


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

"Bailing with a red SOLO® cup" : recognition, disregard, and the everyday horror of climate crisis in coastal Florida (2023)

By many metrics, the state of Florida is “ground zero” for climate change in continental North America. The reasons for this are manifold: stifling heat, stronger hurricanes, and the swelling ocean combine with ambitious development policies and conservative state leadership that obscure environmental risk in service to capital. In urban centers like Miami, seemingly countless organizations and committees are working to confront the climate crisis head on. Five hours away, in Florida’s whiter, more rural zones, what can seem like extreme environmental risk doesn’t necessarily translate into a fear of – or even a belief in – global climate change. The end result in Florida is a morbidly fascinating cultural-epistemological dissonance, a contradiction in culture and risk perception that’s reaching a fever pitch as the waters rise. In this dissertation, which draws on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Miami and along Florida’s Gulf Coast, I analyze how the stark realities of environmental shift are felt, integrated, and resisted by people on the front lines of the climate crisis. Specifically, I explore how seemingly different responses to the climate crisis in Florida are steeped in parallel habits of denialism and instincts of environmental mastery that have been ingrained in settler bodies over centuries of brutal domination. I argue that looking away from climate change – whether it’s denied outright or manifests in climate change dissonance – might be thought of as subsumed within a much vaster culture of denial and disregard that finds roots in the horrors of colonialism, slavery, and capitalism more broadly construed. Responsibly mitigating the climate crisis requires reckoning with this culture, lest people and policymakers end up thinking the horrors of climate change are “just part of the thing,” the white noise we all adjust to without even thinking.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Another big ditch: the prospect of a Nicaragua Canal (2017)

In this thesis, I analyze the impacts of infrastructures that have been approved but are not yet constructed. Specifically, I show how the Nicaragua Canal – a mega-infrastructure project owned by a Chinese investment firm and pushed through by the Nicaraguan government – haunts resident peoples in both its non-present presence, and in its propensity to exhume a painful social past. In calling the Nicaragua Canal a “ghost,” a “chimera,” and a “smoke screen,” resident peoples communicate the illusory quality of infrastructures that remain stuck in the preconstruction phase. And yet the many ways in which the Nicaragua Canal is currently affecting resident peoples demonstrate the very real power it has, even when it does not yet exist in the material world. Given this, I engage Derrida’s concept of the specter to examine the impacts of infrastructures that are yet-to-be. With insights gained through fieldwork conducted in Nicaragua from May to August of 2016, I analyze what happens in the liminal spaces of infrastructural development – in the time lag between approval and construction – and especially how potentially affected peoples are experiencing the spectrality of the Nicaragua Canal.

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Abstract horizons and concrete winds: The politics of development in the Cape Wind Project (2013)

This paper discusses the politics of the first proposed offshore wind turbine development in the United States, Cape Wind. I analyze two sides of this conflict; 1) How residents’ protests of the turbines have problematized large scale renewable energy projects by equating the politics of Cape Wind to capitalist exploitation of land and resources. The ways residents have protested Cape Wind draws parallels between building turbines and exploitation of local resources, something that is more commonly associated with the development of traditional carbon-based fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. 2) I argue that the residents who opposed the project contributed to the developer’s ability to build in Nantucket Sound by contributing to a process of rendering the area technical (Li 2007). My goal is to provide insight into the particular ways the wind and Nantucket Sound has been made the target of development, and also to show how a certain class of Cape Cod residents reacted to the project.

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