Transition and Transformation

at a loss for words of loss

historical and philosophical perspectives on new earth lexicons

Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia. Image by Parsing Eye on Unsplash.

Profound barriers still separate humans from other species, and from the planet – semantically, affectively, practically. But new lexicons and glossaries seek to describe a world which seems to have outgrown the words we once used, and we need to listen more closely to the way language is being used to articulate the present moment.

New words are proposed to mark a geological epoch: anthropocene, technocene, plantationocene, manthropocene. The language, like the epoch, is contorted and violent, but there are more elegant names: cthulucene, eremocene, the age of loneliness. In a plethora of new dictionaries, lexicons, and glossaries, language is gathered to give form and texture to these imagined epochs. Here there are words of clarified grief and dread but also words of hope, drafted from different languages and histories to find and steady ourselves in the spiral sweep of post-industrial, post-local, post-human time. These words seem to thrust down through space and time to find the places we fear are lost or fear to lose. Some are ancient, holding intimacies born of long practice and habit, now recovered and collected as passwords to other lifeworlds. Others are new words to express and realise new scientific findings or philosophical aspirations: solastalgia, biophobia, omnicide, symbiocene.

In this collaborative project we aim to map the power and limits of language to collapse time and space and to guide us into futures which words themselves bring forth.

To share your thoughts or to join us, please contact Jamie (james.dunk@sydney.edu.au).