For many commentators, the arrival of the Anthropocene means that the Earth has become artificial. In a striking slip from literature to science, they suggest that humans have been unintentionally ‘terraforming Earth’ for generations. The tautological sound of this phrase — literally, ‘earth-forming Earth’, or making Earth earth-like — is an effect of its science-fiction origins. Coined by Jack Williamson in his story ‘Collision Orbit’ (1942), terraforming refers to narratives about making other planets habitable for terrestrial life. Some well-known examples are Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy (1987–1989) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (1992–1996). In other words, the phrase ‘terraforming Earth’ tracks a reflexive fantasy: one that begins by projecting outwards, away from our planet, then bends back to Earth as a way of imagining the Anthropogenic biosphere.
This workshop will discuss the theory and politics of terraforming Earth. In ‘Terraforming Earth: A Theory of Ecotechnics’, Derek Woods looks at how terraforming has moved back and forth between US science fiction and science, using the tautology ‘terraforming Earth’ as a site for the study of the cultural politics of the Anthropocene. In ‘The Birth of Geopower’, Ingrid Diran and Antoine Traisnel propose to supplement Foucault’s analysis of biopower with a study of governmentality at the geological level, or geopower, which subsumes the relation of organic and inorganic matter into the explicit calculus of power. Where bio-politics makes legible the politics of man as living being, geo-politics brings into question man as a collective geological force.
Derek Woods is a postdoc in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College. He works on ecotheory, science and technology studies, and contemporary Anglophone literature and media.
An ICI Event in collaboration with diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery
The event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.
The workshop requires prior registration by 1 June 2019. Materials will be distributed in advance in order to promote an active engagement in the discussion. Only a few spaces are available and those who are interested in joining should enclose a brief CV and a few lines explaining their interest in the workshop.
Please note that a conversation on Lichen Theory with Derek Woods and Amelia Groom, moderated by Alison Sperling, will take place at diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery on Wednesday, 12 June 2019, at 19:30.