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.


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).


Special Issue Anthropocene Mobilities

The Special Issue Anthropocene Mobilities has been published in the Journal Mobilities (Vol. 14, Issue 3).

Christiane Fröhlich, Andrew Baldwin and Delf Rothe co-edited the issue, which seeks to develop a new perspective on environmental change and migration in an age of increased mobility. The five research articles and four forum contributions discuss mobility as a key ontological feature of the Anthropocene, scrutinize the entanglement of human and non-human forms of mobility and thereby trouble the existing discourse on climate refugees.


Presentation at the EPSE Summer School

Presentation on Violent Imagineries of Climate Change at the Eurasian Peace Network (EPSE) Summer School

Ann-Kathrin Benner gave a presentation on „Violent Imagineries of Climate Change“ at the 2019 Summer School of the Eurasien Peace Exchange Network. Funded by the Norwegian research council, this summer school took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from 3rd until 9th June 2019.

In the discussion following the presentation, participants pointed out the ambiguity of violence as a concept from an anthropological point of view and confronted the imagineries in the presentation with collected stories about future (non-)impacts of climate change from their professional backgrounds and everyday lives. 

Entering the Anthropocene

Delf Rothe participates in public panel at the artspace Âme Nue in Hamburg

The panel, which took place on June 13, 2019, was part of an exhibition on environmental change in the Suwalki Corridor by the Hamburg-based photographer Robin Hinsch. The Suwalki Corridor is a 65-kilometer-wide strip of territory linking Poland with Lithuania and considered as NATO’s most vulnerable choke point along its eastern flank. Robin Hinsch visited this potential conflict zone, to find a region that was shaped not so much by its geopolitical position but  by intense agriculture, droughts and a changing  climate. Delf discussed with the artist and Wolfgang Wopperer-Beholz from Extinction Rebellion, London, about the role of art in making sense of climate change and its local manifestations.

ISA Annual Convention 2019

From 26-30 March Delf Rothe attended the 60th annual convention of the International Studies Association in Toronto.

Delf was part of a roundtable on „Critical International Relations (IR) and the Politics of Climate Change“ including Stefanie Fishel, Eva Lövbrand, Anthony Burke, Robyn Eckersley, Scott Hamilton. Organized by Matt McDonald the roundtable discussed the contribution of critical IR to the current debate on the Anthropocene.

Delf furthermore presented a paper on the relation of visuality, technology and security in the Anthropocene on the panel „World Political Compositions“ and a paper on the genealogy of the Anthropocene on panel on „Genealogies of bio-technical worlds“.

Violent Climate Imaginaries (VICTIM)

Researchers from the University of Hamburg and University of Lund meet at the IFSH in Hamburg to discuss research grant proposal on violent climate imagineries.

The workshop „violent imagineries of climate change“ (VICTIM) took place on February 11th-12th 2019 at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg. Criminologists, peace researchers, linguists, science fiction writers and social scientists discussed the empirical finding that social impacts of climate change are often portrayed as violent in literature, film and science and how this lack of imagination impacts current climate politics.  The University of Hamburg seed-funded the workshop. It serves as the point of departure for drafting a larger research grant proposal on imaginaries of violent climate change.

Essay on The summer of extremes 2018

On December 30, the German newspaper "Die Tageszeitung" published Delf Rothe's long-read on the 2018 summer heatwaves [in German]

The article reflects upon the impact of the extreme summer on the public discourse on climate change in Germany. It argues that it challenged the ways dominant ways of seeing climate change. Rather than as a distant threat, global warming would increasingly be perceived as a catastrophe, which is already happening.

Radio Interview with NDR Info

Delf Rothe spoke on NDR Info about the potential security implications of climate change [in German].

Delf warned against a securitization of climate change and stressed the complexities and uncertainties of climate change and security links. The interview was broadcasted within the NDR’s „Strategien & Streitkräfte“ show, which provides critical analyses of contemporary peace and security issues.

Scenario Workshop on Geoengineering Risks

Workshop on „Future Security Risks of Geoengineering”, Peace and Security Studies (M.A.)

Members of the Anthropocene-Security-Projekt Team carried out a scenario planning exercise on future security risks of geoengineering with postgraduate students of Peace and Security Studies at IFSH Hamburg on November 29th/30th.  A brief documentation can be found here.

Paper Anthropocene Genealogies

Ann-Kathrin Benner and Delf Rothe presented their research on legacies of the Cold War in contemporary Anthropocene thinking at the Earth System Governance Conference in Utrecht on November 6th 2018.

The paper was part of a double-panel on the ethics of future-making in the Anthropocene organized by Eva Lövbrand, Silke Beck, Alejandro Esguerra and Henrike Knappe.

The paper abstract can be accessed here.

Paper Jellyfish Encounters

Delf Rothe presented the paper Jellyfish Encounters: The Paradox of Security in the Anthropocene at the Pan-European Conference on International Relations in Prague, September 12th-15th 2018.

The paper uses the example of a recent rise of jellyfish that threaten to take over the oceans to rethink the notion of security in the Anthropocene. It describes how jellyfish emerge as a posthuman security threat that is literally ungovernable. As jellyfish blooms can neither be mapped nor predicted, humanity increasingly relies upon extreme measures, such as jellyfish killer robots, to cope with the risks of the Anthropocene.

The draft paper is available upon request.

Conference Section Anthropocene Politics

Co-convened with David Chandler at the Pan-European Conference on International Relations in Prague, September 12th-15th. 2018.

Delf Rothe co-convened a section on Anthropocene politics: IR after the end of the world together with David Chandler (University of Westminster) during this year’s EISA annual conference in Prague. The section was composed of nine panels and a roundtable discussion devoted to interrogating the claims made for (and against) the Anthropocene as “the end of the world as we know it”. The speakers raised questions about notions of time and critique in the Anthropocene, environmental politics and geopolitics, the possibilities of decolonizing the Anthropocene, its nuclear origins and challenges for IR theory.

Paper Visual Resilience

Delf Rothe presented the paper Between Bending Trees and Standing Rocks: The Visual Politics of Resilience at the European Workshops in International Studies, 6-9 June 2018 in Groningen.


The paper was part of the workshop Doing Visual IR convened by Jonathan Luke Austin and Stephanie Perazzone. The workshop brought together 20 international scholars to discuss the role of visuality and visual methods in the study of world politics. In his contribution, Delf studied how images are used to make sense of resilience and how visual methods such as mapping, drawing or sensing are applied in resilience promotion projects.

The draft paper is available upon request.

New Publication

Rothe, Delf and David Shim. 2018. Sensing the ground: On the global politics of satellite-based activism. Review of International Studies, 44(3), 414-437.

In recent years, satellite imagery, previously restricted to the defence and intelligence communities, has been made available to a range of non-state actors as well. It is often said that the increasing availability and applicability of remote sensing technologies has contributed to the rise of what can be called ‘satellite-based activism’ empowering non-state groups to challenge state practices of seeing and showing. In this article, we argue that NGO activism is not challenging the sovereign gaze of the state but, on the contrary, actually reinforcing it.

Upcoming Events

20-22 November 2019 // Hamburg (In)securities Sessions: Un-Cancelling the Future, SQUARE HSBA Innovation Hub Hamburg

2-4 December 2019 // European Space Week 2019, Helsinki

5-6 December 2019 // Workshop „Security Practices and Security Technologies“ by the research initiative on Critical Security studies within the German Political Science Association (GPSA), University of Marburg

23-24 March 2019 // Workshop „Sicherheits- und Technikprozesse im Weltraum“ (Security and Technology in outer space), University of Duisburg/Essen

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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.



Annika Reinke

Student Assistant

Annika is a master’s student in Sociology at the UHH. She is interested in Knowledge Politics and in Environmental Sociology. Within the project, she supports the research work and takes care of administrative matters.


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)

Research Group at Universität Hamburg as part of the as part of the Cluster of Excellence “Integrated Climate System Analysis and Prediction“ (CliSAP) led by Jürgen Scheffran

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)

Research network funded by the German Research Foundation led by Gabi Schlag (Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg) and Axel Heck (Kiel University)

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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