WEBINAR: Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics. Environmental Humanities Lecture
How does attention to and stewardship of soils point to alternative frameworks for living and dying? Kristina Lyons, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, explores the way life strives to flourish in the face of violence, criminalization, and poisoning produced by militarized, growth-oriented development.
Mural painted by youth in La Hormiga, Putumayo, depicting life before and after aerial fumigation with glyphosate, a central strategy of the US-Colombia War on Drugs.
Photo: Kristina Lyons
In Colombia, decades of social and armed conflict and the US-led war on drugs have created a seemingly untenable situation for scientists and rural communities as they attempt to care for forests and grow non-illicit crops. In Vital Decomposition Kristina M. Lyons presents an ethnography of human-soil relations. She follows state soil scientists and small farmers across labs, greenhouses, forests, and farms and attends to the struggles and collaborations between campesinos, agrarian movements, state officials, and scientists over the meanings of peace, productivity, rural development, and sustainability in Colombia. In particular, Lyons examines the practices and philosophies of rural farmers who value the decomposing layers of leaves, which make the soils that sustain life in the Amazon, and shows how the study and stewardship of the soil point to alternative frameworks for living and dying. In outlining the life-making processes that compose and decompose into soil, Lyons theorizes how life can thrive in the face of the violence, criminalization, and poisoning produced by militarized, growth-oriented development.
Kristina Lyons is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and with the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, University of Pennsylvania. She also holds affiliations with the Center for Experimental Ethnography and the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at UPenn. Kristina’s current research is situated at the interfaces of socio-ecological conflicts, transitional justice, community-based forms of reconciliation, and science studies in Colombia.
Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, UK.