Grad Student Workshop: 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Colloquia: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

What does it mean to live in a criminalized ecology in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of Colombia?  In what way does antinarcotics policy that aims to eradicate la mata que mata (the plant that kills) pursue peace through poison? Relatedly, what is the significance of cultivating a garden, caring for forest, or growing food when at any moment a crop duster plane may pass overhead, indiscriminately spraying herbicides over entire landscapes? Since 2000, the US-Colombia War on Drugs has relied on the militarized aerial fumigation of coca plants coupled with alternative development interventions that aim to forcibly eradicate illicit-based rural livelihoods. With ethnographic engagement among small farmers in the frontier department of Putumayo – gateway to the country’s Amazon and a region that has been the focus of hemispheric counternarcotic operations  – this talk explores the different possibilities and foreclosures for life and death that emerge in a tropical forest ecology pushed to its limits under military duress. By following farmers and their material practices and life philosophies, Lyons closely traces the way human-soil relations come to potentiate forms of resistance to the violence and criminalization produced by militarized, growth-oriented development. Rather than productivity – one of the elements of modern biopolitics – the stamina of these ecologies relies on organic decay, impermanence, even fragility that complicates modern bifurcations of living and dying, allowing, Lyons argues, for ecological imaginaries and life processes that do not rely on productivity or ‘growth’ to strive into existence.

Kristina Lyons graduated with a Ph.D. in anthropology from UC Davis in 2013, and is currently a UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSC in the anthropology department and with the Science and Justice Research Center. She has been conducting research in Colombia since 2004, and works closely with social movements in southwestern Colombia and the National Agrarian, Ethnic, and Popular Strike. She has published articles in the Journal for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, with the Center for Imaginative Ethnography, and in the journal Legal Thought, and is currently completing a documentary film and popular education project with farmers in the department of Putumayo. She has also been awarded the Roy A. Rapport Prize from the Anthropology and Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association, and the first place ethnographic poetry prize from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. Her current book project moves across laboratories, greenhouses, forests, and farms to explore the ways state soil scientists and small farmers attempt to build alternatives to illicit coca crops and the military-led, growth-oriented development paradigms intended to substitute them under the U.S.-Columbia War on Drugs.

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