SOIL PRACTITIONERS + LIFE POLITICS
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 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.
SOIL PRACTITIONERS + LIFE POLITICS
Illustrations: 42 illustrations
Published: April 2020
Author: Kristina Lyons, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.
Subjects: Anthropology, Environmental and Agrarian Studies, Feminist Science Studies, Latin American Studies
2021 Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association
At each International Congress, the Latin American Studies Association presents the Bryce Wood Book Award to an outstanding book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in English.
Review of Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics , Lyons, Kristina M.. Duke University Press, Durham and London.
In Vital Decomposition, Lyons brings to light themes that transcend the specific conditions of Amazonian soils and challenges the reader to question narratives of soil objectification that obscure the interdependent relationship between soils and people. Her analysis of decay, germination, and life challenges binary models of understanding and encourages us to think more of what can come to be. Death can make different forms of life possible. Farmers can be inventors. Scientists can develop “ojos para ella” or eyes for la selva. Different soil practices can create different kinds of humans, ethics, and intertwined ecologies.
Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners & Life Politics
Review by Tyanif Rico Rodríguez
"Cuando alguien te diga que el suelo es solo una superficie, desconfía. ¡El suelo está vivo!”. ¿Cómo es aquella vitalidad del suelo? ¿Cuál es ese registro de lo vivo y para quiénes? Al analizar las relaciones entre personas y suelo, se puede dar dimensión a esta afirmación, así como un margen de respuesta a aquellas preguntas...
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
“Vital Decomposition weaves enthralling ecopoetic writing with the finest ethnographic storytelling.
Kristina Lyons tells us a compelling story of human-soil relations nurturing insurgent life from the very grounds of eco-social devastation.
An indispensable and inspiring read for hopeful decolonial naturecultures.”
MARÍA PUIG DE LA BELLACASA
Matters of Care:
Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds
“Making several important interventions in biopolitics, multispecies ethnography, and feminist science studies, Vital Decomposition is a riveting, engaging, timely, and intimate book.
It is the best kind of ethnography; it takes us to the small, marginal, and forgotten and examines the world through them, making us feel as though we've been looking at everything the wrong way for a while.”
The Government of Beans:
Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops
“Her analysis aligns unapologetically with these farmers, offering both a powerful critique of capitalist agriculture and a rich account of alternative practices.”
“A strength of the book is Lyons’ rejection of the academic conceit of being more knowledgeable than her interlocutors.”