Kristina Lyons

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

University Museum Room 342


Kristina Lyons’ current research is situated at the interfaces of socio-ecological conflicts, transitional justice, community-based forms of reconciliation, science studies, and legal anthropology in Colombia.  Her manuscript, Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics (Duke 2020), moves across laboratories, greenhouses, forests, and farms in the capital city of Bogotá and the Andean-Amazonian department of Putumayo. It weaves together an intimate ethnography of two kinds of practitioners – state soil scientists and peasant farmers – who attempt to cultivate alternatives to commercial coca crops and the military-led, growth-oriented development paradigms intended to substitute them. In 2015, Dr. Lyons directed a popular education documentary film project based on farmer-to-farmer alternative agricultural practices called Cultivating a Bien Vivir (Living Well) in the Amazon. She was recently awarded a Fulbright Award (2021) to support the work of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) in a case with local communities in southern Colombia that renders visible the territory as a victim of the country’s social armed conflict by reconstructing the socio-environmental memory of the war.

Research Interests

Feminist, postcolonial and decolonial interfaces with science studies, transitional justice and legal studies, environmental humanities, politics of 'nature' and 'matter',  experimental ethnography, socio-ecological justice, Colombia and Latin America.

Selected Publications

2021. Descomposición Vital: Suelos, Selva y Propuestas de Vida. Bogotá: Universidad del Rosario.

2020. Vital Decomposition: Soil Practitioners and Life Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.

2018. “Chemical Warfare in Colombia, Evidentiary Ecologies, and Senti-actuando [Feeling-acting] Practices of Justice,” Social Studies of Science 0(00): 1-24. 

2018.   Los ríos tienen memoria: La (im)possibilidad de las inundaciones y historias de (de) and (re) construcción urbana en el piedemonte amazónico.  [Rivers have memory: On the impossibility of flooding and histories of urban de and-reconstruction in the Amazonian foothills]. A la orilla del río. May 31. piedemonte-amazonico/

2017.  “On the Situated Politics of Analytic Symmetry,” Critical Perspectives: Engaging Decoloniality and Decolonization in and at the Interfaces of STS, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 3(1): 32-39.

2017.   ¿Cómo sería una paz territorial?: Iniciativas de Justicia Socioecológica en el Sur [How might a territorial peace be imagined? Initiatives of Socioecological Justice in the South]. A la orilla del río. May 25.

2016. “Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.-Colombia War on Drugs”. Cultural Anthropology 31(1): 55-80.

2016.   “Selva Life and Death: A Conversation in Images with Kristina Lyons.” Cultural Anthropology Fieldsights. March 4.

2014.    “Soil Science, Development and the ‘Elusive Nature’ of Colombia’s Amazonian Plains”. Special Issue on Nature, Infrastructure and the State in Latin America, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19(2): 212-236.

2014.    “Fresh Leaves,” Creative Ethnographic Non-fiction and Photographic Installation published by the Centre for Imaginative Ethnography’s Galleria, York University May 14.

2006.   “The First Visit.”  Anthropology and Humanism 31(1):87-88. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2005.   “Then Silence.”  Anthropology and Humanism 20(2): 232-233. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Courses Taught

Transdisciplinary Environmental Humanities

Conflicts and Collaborations over Bodies of Water

Critical Engagements with Science(s) and Justice(s)

The Politics of Matter and the Matter of Politics

Experimental Ethnography at the Interfaces of the Arts and Sciences

On the Rights of Nature in Times of Conflict and Transition


Center for Experimental Ethnography 

The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH)

Latin American and Latinx Studies Program



Faculty Status