Mellon Forum // Soil Forensics: Property and the Buried Truth in Medellín

Feb 12, 2024, 12:00 pm1:15 pm
Betts and Zoom


Event Description

Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment: Transforming Land / Making Property

Meghan Morris Temple University

Soil Forensics: Property and the Buried Truth in Medellín

Discussant: Vanessa Koh, Princeton-Mellon / Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies / High Meadows Environmental Institute Fellow 

This is a hybrid event. Attend in person at the School of Architecture, or register for the zoom webinar using the below link:


A view-only livestream is available on Media Central Channel 7:



As Colombia attempted to achieve peace, the city of Medellín aimed to move beyond its violent past, breaking ground on ambitious green development projects to bring parks and infrastructure to the city’s most peripheral neighborhoods. But these projects threatened to evict local residents, as city planners deployed maps of soils at risk of landslide as the basis for their removal. In debating removals, both city officials and residents turned to soil as a forensic site, using soil’s qualities as evidence of conflicting accounts of a 1987 landslide to support their arguments about property. While forensics in transitional justice generally centers exhumations as a source of truth about crime during conflict, it was not corpses exhumed from the soil, but soil itself that became an object of forensic inquiry. This challenged official narratives of transition and reconfigured both property and territorial relations, in turn shaping the possibilities for war and peace.


Special funding for this session is provided by the Program in Latin American Studies. 

The Spring 2024 Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment is kindly sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Princeton University Humanities Council, Center for Collaborative History, Departments of Art & Archaeology, English, and Politics, HMEI, PIIRS, SPIA, and the School of Architecture.

Mellon Forum events are free and open to the public. Lunch is provided while supplies last.



Program in Latin American Studies