12 Jun 2019

The Year’s Work in Terraforming

with Derek Woods
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.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)


Derek Woods

Organized by

Alison Sperling
An ICI Event in collaboration with diffrakt | centre for theoretical periphery

In English

First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin
Cite as: The Year’s Work in Terraforming: with Derek Woods, workshop, ICI Berlin, 12 June 2019 <>