Chthulucene Manifesto from Santa Cruz

Revised from “Donna Haraway and Cary Wolfe in Conversation”, Manifestly Haraway (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).

«Endosymbiosis, tribute to Lynn Margulis», Shoshanah Dubiner, 2012,


Perhaps it is time to write a “Chthulucene Manifesto.” “My” Chthulucene is the time of mortal compositions at stake to and with each other. This epoch is the kainos (-cene) of the ongoing powers that are terra, of the myriad tentacular ones in all their diffracted, webbed temporalities, spacialties, and materialities.  Kainos is the temporality of the thick, fibrous, and lumpy “now,” which is ancient and not. The Chthulucene is a now that has been, is now, and is yet to come. The Chthulucene is a relentlessly diffracted time-space (remember Karen Barad on quantum fields in Meeting the Universe Halfway). These powers surge through all that are terra. They are destructive/generative and in no one’s back pocket. They are not finished, and they can be dreadful. Their resurgence can be dreadful. Hope is not their genre, but demanding response-abilities might be. Terran forces will kill fools who provoke without ceasing. Killed but not gone, these fools will haunt in tentacular ongoing destruction.

The chthonic powers, both generative and destructive, are kin to Bruno Latour’s and Isabelle Stengers’s Gaia, even though their Gaias are not at all identical to each other. But for all three of us, Gaia and its kin are not mother; they are snakey gorgones like the untamed and mortal Medusa; they do not care about the thing that calls itself the Anthropos, the upward looking one.  That upward-looking one has no idea how to go visiting, how to be polite, how to practice curiosity without sadism (remember Vinciane Despret and Hannah Arendt). In the Anthropocene (a naming I have come to need too), the chthonic entities can and do join in accelerating double-death provoked by the arrogance of the industrializers, super-transporters, and capitalizers, in seas, lands, airs, and waters. In the Anthropocene the tentacular ones are nuclear and carbon fire; they burn fossil-making man, who obsessively burns more and more fossils, making ever more fossils in a grim mockery of earth’s energies.  In the Anthropocene, the chthonic ones are active too; all the action is not human, to say the least.  And, written into the rocks and the chemistry of the seas, the surging powers are dreadful. Double death is in love with haunted voids.

The chthonic ones can and do infuse all of terra, including its human people, who become-with a vast motley of others. All of these beings live and die, and can live and die well, can flourish, not without pain and mortality, but without practicing double death for a living.  Terran ones, including human people, can strengthen the resurgence (Anna Tsing’s kind) of vitalities that feed the hungers of a diverse and luxuriating world. The Chthulucene was, is, and can still be full of what Anna calls ‘Holocene resurgence’, or ‘feral biologies’—i.e., of the ongoingness—of a wild, cultivated and uncultivated, dangerous, but plentiful earth for always evolving critters including human people. Mixed and dangerous, the Chthulucene is the temporality of our home world, terra. The Chthulucene is never one; it is always sym-chthonic, not auto-chthonic, sympoietic, not autopoietic. All of us who care about recuperation, partial connections, and resurgence must learn to live and die well in the entanglements of the tentacular without always seeking to cut and bind everything in our way. Tentacles are feelers; they are studded with stingers; they taste the world. Human people are in/of the holobiome of the tentacular, and the burning and extracting times of the Anthropos are like monocultural plantations and slime mats where once forests, farms, and coral reefs flourished, which were allied to fungal materialities and temporalities in very different ways.

The Anthropocene will be short. It is more a boundary event, like the K-Pg boundary (Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary), than an epoch. Another mutation of the thick Kainos is already coming. The only question is, will the brevity of the Anthropocene/Capitalocene/Plantationocene “boundary event” be because double death reigns everywhere, even in the tombs of the Anthropos and his kin, or because multi species entities, including human people, made potent alliances in time with the generative powers of the Chthulucene, to power resurgence and partial healing in the face of irreversible loss, so that rich worldings of old and new kinds took root?  Compost, not posthuman…

The Chthulucene is full of storytellers. Ursula LeGuin is one of the best, in everything she wrote. Hayao Miyazaki is another; remember Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. And then go to the Inupiaq online game Never Alone. Watch the trailer! (1)

With these storytellers, my next manifesto must be Make Kin Not Babies!

Donna Haraway, winter 2015