The Knowledge Politics of Security in the Anthropocene
The Knowledge Politics of Security in the Anthropocene
The Knowledge Politics of Security in the Anthropocene
The Knowledge Politics of Security in the Anthropocene

The Project

Human activity is changing the Earth. Man-made planetary changes potentially threaten wellbeing and security around the world. But how do we actually know about these risks? How do we see our impact on the planet? How do we anticipate the planetary future? Our research project seeks answers to these questions.

To anticipate, manage and control the risks of unfolding environmental changes, humans have developed a whole range of instruments and tools. These knowledge practices – including simulation, remote sensing, mapping, or scenario planning – do not simply depict a pre-existing reality. Instead, they bring about multiple versions of the environment and enable different forms of intervention. The research project studies these forms of world-making and their underlying cosmologies in the fields of Climate Science, security policy, and civil protection. It asks how tools and methods of anticipating environmental risks circulate between these different epistemic fields. It traces the actor-networks and their knowledge practices in three in-depth case studies: remote sensing, resilience promotion and geoengineering.


Without the view from space we would not know about many human-made transformations of the Earth system. Modern satellite technology allows us to detect large-scale changes of the Earth’s surface and to monitor the composition of the atmosphere or the condition of vegetation. Satellite remote sensing data is thus used to detect environmental risks including resource scarcities and resulting conflicts, natural disasters and environmental displacement. With the recent rise of geospatial big data, satellite technologies even promise to predict the future. We investigate how experts in the security and civil protection fields draw on satellite remote sensing  to anticipate future environmental threats. We trace the actor-networks emerging around these anticipatory forms of governance. Finally, we study the socio-technical imaginaries and aesthetic conventions that inform techniques of satellite forecasting.

In recent years, the concept of resilience has become the dominant approach to providing security against the risks of the Anthropocene. Resilience accepts the unpredictability of a dynamic world that is marked by non-linear change. Resilience promotion projects thus seek to prepare vulnerable populations, regions or infrastructures for the unpredictable. Following a rationale of “the people know best”, resilience promotion projects seek to mobilize local, tacit forms of knowledge. A whole range of techniques, including participatory mapping, stakeholder workshops or community-theatre, are applied to activate the self-help potential of vulnerable communities. The project studies the underlying knowledge politics of resilience and asks about its effects on local communities.

Geoengineering refers to human attempts to intervene in the Earth’s climate system – for example by injecting aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight or by absorbing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere. Researchers agree that such proposals bear considerable risks. Their governance entails an important temporal element, as geoengineering is about shaping or even bringing about a not yet realized future. Our research project will further these debates by studying how different planetary futures are (re-) produced, visualized and imagined within existing SRM research projects and geoengineering proposals. It scrutinizes how security actors anticipate the future risks of geoengineering. Finally, we are interested in genealogies of Anthropocene discourses and trace the historical epistemes that made the idea of intervening in the Earth System possible in the first place.



New publication: Jellyfish Encounters

Science, Technology and Security in the Anthropocene Ocean, published online first in Critical Studies on Security

The article takes the emerging debate on governance and security in the Anthropocene to a space that it has so far neglected: the global ocean. It engages with the work of critical ocean scholars and develops the notion of the ‘Anthropocene Ocean’ – a global ocean shaped by human activity that is marked by entanglement and complexity. Focussing on the problem of rising jellyfish blooms across the planet, Delf shows how existing regimes of security become increasingly inadequate to address complex risks emerging in the Anthropocene ocean. As a result, security becomes increasingly experimental – digital technologies including big data, machine learning and sensors help to live with and adapt to jellyfish blooms.

The article is part of the Special Issue „Taking the Trouble: Enquiring Science and Technology in Security Practices” co-edited by Rocco Bellanova, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen, and Linda Monsees.

Bildschirmfoto 2020-09-09 um 10.42.38

Launch of the Planet Politics Institute

International experiment in scholar-activism on climate change and environmental racism

Our team joins the newly established Planet Politics Institute (PPI). The PPI is a virtual institute that  brings together scholars, lawyers, activists, and citizens committed to advancing the fight against climate change, challenging environmental racism and

injustice, supporting indigenous peoples and environmental defenders. It seeks to connect scholarly writing on planet politics and the Anthropocene with climate political activism and real world struggles for political change. The initative is led by Stefanie Fishel (University of Sunshine Coast) and Anthony Burke (UNSW Canberra).

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"How to sustain peace in times of crisis?"

Online panel on the Peace Report 2020 hosted by the "Evangelische Akademie Frankfurt"

On June 25th Delf was invited by the „Evangelische Akademie Frankfurt“ to discuss the implications of climate change for peace and security. The online panel was part of a series of events on the Peace Report 2020 – a joint publication of the five major German peace research institutes. Dr. Claudia Baumgart-Ochse from HSFK gave an overview of this year’s peace report. Delf presented the main findings of the focus chapter on climate change. Sabine Minninger (Brot für die Welt) and Eberhard Pausch (Greenpeace) complemented the panel with a take on climate change and peace from a civil society perspective.

The online panel was screened via zoom and youtube and can be viewed here.


New Publication on EU Copernicus

Chapter in the volume "Visualität and Weltpolitik" (Visuality and global politics) edited by Gabi Schlag and Axel Heck

Delf’s chapter „Europas Blick auf die Erde: EU Copernicus und die visuelle Versicherheitlichung von Umwelt“ discusses the role of visual technologies and visual artefacts in the securitization of the environment. The contribution shows how the EU’s Earth Observation Program uses satellite remote sensing and other visual technologies to render environmental risks both visible and governable. The chapter demonstrates the merits of a multimodal analysis of video materials in the study of security discourses.

The edited collection is the first German book on the role of visuality in global politics (2020, Springer VS). It is the outcome of a three-year cooperation project on the same issue funded by the German Research Foundation and led by Dr. Gabi Schlag and Dr. Axel Heck.

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Peace Report 2020

Ann-Kathrin Benner and Delf Rothe contribute to chapter on “Peace in Times of Climate Change” in the latest German Peace Report (in German).

The focus chapter of this year’s Peace Report discusses the potential implications of climate change for global peace and security. The team of eight authors, led by Prof. Dr. Ursula Schröder at IFSH, warns against a narrow focus on possible climate conflicts and related security threats and makes the case for global cooperation and a focus on peacebuilding potentials in the face of dramatic change. Our team stresses that techno-fix solutions such as Solar Radiation Management pose a particular risk to global peace and thus calls for a moratorium of related research. The Peace Report is the joint yearbook of the German Institutes of Peace and Conflict Research (BICC / HSFK-PRIF / IFSH / INEF). It has been published annually since 1987.    

John Urry

John Urry Memorial Prize 2020

Andrew Baldwin, Christiane Fröhlich and Delf Rothe are being awarded for their contribution to their Special Issue on Anthropocene Mobilities

Andrew Baldwin, Christiane Föhlich and our team member Delf Rothe have been awarded for the Introduction of their Special Issue with the Title „From Climate Migration to Anthropocene Mobilities: Shifting the Debate“ (Vol 14, No, 3) as the most significant contribution to Mobilities published in 2019. By connecting contemporary discussions on the ontology of the Anthropocene with a framing of mobilities and different perspectives on migration politics, the awarded article, according to the jury, furthers critical social thought on the Anthropocene and develops a novel perspective at one of the most pressing issues of our time. The John Urry Memorial Prize s being awarded annually by the Editors of the Journal Mobilities in honour to its founding Editor and Sociologist from Lancaster University John Urry and his research in the field of mobility studies.

Uni of Malta 5

New EISA Section International Relations in the Anthropocene

Call for Papers for this year’s EISA conference in Malta

For the next three years 2020-2022, the European International Studies Association (EISA) has a new semi-standing section on „International Relations in the Anthropocene“. During the first two years the section will be chaired by David Chandler (University of Westminster) and Delf Rothe (IFSH Hamburg). For this year’s Pan-European Conference on International Relations (16 to 19 September in Msida at the University of Malta) we welcome proposals for papers, panels and roundtables that address the challenges of the Anthropocene for International Relations (broadly construed). The call for papers, which is open until March 16, as well as more detailed information about the conference can be accessed here.


An Inconvenient Truth

Film screening and public discussion at the Abaton Cinema in Hamburg

On January 7, 2020, documentary movie „An Inconvenient Truth“ (Guggenheimer 2006) was screened at  the Abaton Cinema in Hamburg as part of the movie/lecture series Future, Society and Technology. Following the movie screening, Delf Rothe and Beate Ratter, who is professor of geography and climate research at the University of Hamburg, discussed about the movie, the current state of the climate regime, the role of technology and of images in global climate politics. The lecture series is organized by the Hamburg Open Online University and consists of seven movie screenings dealing with issues including Artificial Intelligence, drone warfare, globalization, surveillance and climate change.

I sky with my little eye

Paper I Spy with my Little Eye...

The Visual Politics of Geoengineering

Ann-Kathrin Benner and Delf Rothe presented their paper on the Visual Politics of Geoengineering at the workshop on „Scenarios and the Politics of Future and the Climate Security Nexus“, 14-15 November 2019 at the University of Hamburg. Two weeks later they discussed the same paper at the workshop „Security Practices and Security Technologies“ at the University of Marburg, 5-6 December 2019. The workshop was organized by the research group „Critical Security Studies“ of the German Political Science Association (GPSA).

Violent Climate Imaginaries

New Publication: Violent Climate Imaginaries

Science-Fiction-Politics. IFSH Research Reports, No.1, 2019.

Our team members Ann-Kathrin Benner and Delf Rothe have published a research report on Violent Climate Imaginaries together with colleagues Sara Ullström and Johannes Stripple from the University of Lund. The article discusses how violent imaginaries of climate change are produced and how they spread in the fields of science, popular culture and politics. Furthermore, it studies how climate change operates as a source or even a form of violence and to what extend imaginaries of climate change can exert violence themselves. The Research Report is the outcome of an ongoing cooperation between the Universities of Hamburg and Lund and the interdisciplinary workshop on „violent climate imaginaries“ that took place at the IFSH from 11-12 February 2019.

Apocalyptic riders

New publication: Governing the End Times?

Open Access article on the apocalyptic imaginary of the Anthropocene published in Millennium

The article, which was published online first on December 12, 2019, argues that the anthropocene is basically a secular form of eschatology – the Christian doctrine of the end of times. Drawing upon a linear notion of time and addressing the problems of irreversibility and extinction, it draws on key symbols and images of the Christian apocalypse. Engaging with the emerging debate on planet politics, the article identifies three competing discourses on the Anthropocene and related planet political projects: eco-catastrophism, eco-modernism and planetary realism. Each of these projects takes a different position towards the threat of the end of times. The political implications of these are discussed in the article.


European Space Week

Field research on the EU’s space programmes

Delf Rothe and Ann-Kathrin Benner attended this year’s European Space Week in Helsinki from December 3rd until December 5th 2019 to conduct field research. The European Space Week is an annual event hosted by the European Commmission. This year’s four central themes were the „role of space solutions for strengthening the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action“, „new space economy for sustainable growth“, „sustainable space economy“ and „space solutions for sustainable Artic“. A Hackathon, a bootcamp for startups, panel discussions with members of the European Commission and EU Copernicus, and the „Space Oscars“ cerenomy provided a fruitful atmosphere to engage with matters of governing and securing complex risks by means of satellite imaging and remote sensing.

Climate Migration Myths

Commentary in Nature Climate Change

A group of 31 international scholars, including our team member Delf Rothe, have published a commentary in Nature Climate Change that problematizes existing research on climate-induced migration. By reproducing generalized narratives about large-scale climate migration, existing research risks fueling anti-migration sentiment and thus involuntarily playing into the hands of right-wing political actors. The researchers make the case for a mobility lense on climate-migration – one that accounts for the complexity and context-dependency of climate change and migration links.

Anthropocene Mobilities_Website

Launch of

New web platform on migration and environmental change is now online

Anthropocene mobilities is an international network of scholars and experts who collectively discuss the question of how to address the phenomenon of mobility through the lens of the Anthropocene. is a new online platform to facilitate debates about these issues through short intervention pieces, video interviews, and visual interventions on this topic. The webpage lets you explore the richness of human and non-human stories of mobility and migration in four interactive episodes: mobile ontologies, colonial archives, worlds in motion and posthuman future(s).

Solar Radiation Workshop2

Debating Climate Engineering

Students discuss opportunities and perils of Solar Radiation Management

Dr. Delf Rothe and Ann-Kathrin Benner hosted a Debating Session on Solar Radiation Management (SRM) with high school students from Hamburg and Buxtehude. Simulating a debate of the British House of Commons, the pupils discussed whether SRM technologies should be developed. While the first group visiting found the arguments of the government more convincing, the second group decided that SRM is too risky and potentially harmful for socio-environmental systems. A team of journalists from each group tweeted live from the debate via @anthroposec. The event took place in the framework of the Hamburg Climate Week (23th – 29th September 2019).

Upcoming Events


28-30 October 2020 Community Climate Intervention Strategies Workshop of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

5-6 November 2020 Workshop „Dealing with the (Un)known Unknowns: Praxiographic perspectives on socio-ecological crisises“ hosted by the DFG research group „Futures of sustainability“

20 January 2021 // Invited Talk „World in the Making: The Visual Politics of Geoengineering“ at the Kolleg-Forum of the Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies Futures of Sustainability at the University of Hamburg


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Delf Rothe

Principal Investigator

Delf is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH). He is particularly interested in critical approaches to security, discourse theory, new materialism, security technologies and visual politics. Within the project, he is responsible for the two case studies on satellite remote sensing and resilience.

Ann-Kathrin Benner


Ann-Kathrin is a political scientist and researcher at IFSH. She is interested in the linkages between imagination, anticipation and governance in the light of anthropogenic environmental changes. Within the project, she focuses on the anticipation of geoengineering risks and historic predecessors to the Anthropocene debate.



Collaborative research network and interactive web platform hosted by Christiane Fröhlich (German Institute of Global and Area Studies Hamburg) and Delf Rothe (Institute of Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg)

Conceptual Taskforce of the Earth System Governance Project convened by Eva Lövbrand (Linköping University, Sweden) and Frank Biermann (University of Utrecht, Netherlands)

Virtual institute dedicated to connecting advanced academic research in ecological politics and law to real-world struggles for political change, improved governance, and ecological survival

Project blog by David Shim, Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, International Relations and International Organisation

Scholarly online platform that offers means & methods to integrate anthropocene content, community, data, and debate

Geopolitics and security in the Anthropocene. Working Package led by Malin Mobjörk (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)

Collaborative research network between Universität Hamburg and the University of Lund led by Associate Professor Johannes Stripple (University of Lund) and Delf Rothe (IFSH)

Network funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF) enabling the exchange between science and practice in questions of peace and security in the outer space

International research project led by Jonathan Luke Austin and Anna Leander (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva)


Dr. Delf Rothe
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