ICS Seminar Series - Josh Wodak

Date: Thursday, 10 September 2020
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: The seminar will be hosted online via Zoom. Please RSVP to e.blight@westernsydney.edu.au by 9 Setptember 5:00pm, to receive the Zoom details.

Petrified: Living During a Rupture of Life on Earth

Presenter: Dr Josh Wodak


A rupture of life on Earth is currently unfolding. The consequences of this Sixth Mass Extinction have no parallel in the history of life on this planet. What then does this rupture mean for the human individual; not only in terms of being alive during such an upheaval, but actually being alive to upheaval itself? This presentation will sketch one response to being alive during and to this rupture, by reframing the current human-induced ecological crisis in the context of just how volatile life on this planet actually is.

Drawing on exerts from Petrified: Living During a Rupture of Life on Earth, the book I am currently completing, the presentation explores how our comprehension of the rupture is formulated through two prisms: being petrified, the everyday feeling of being alive to the rupture; and becoming petrified, the fossilisation of species becoming extinct due to the rupture. Bringing these two prisms into dialogue with one another, Petrified responds to the current crisis with an expansive view of life that embraces – rather than braces for – impact, and puts humanity in its humble place as just another fleeting catastrophe.

This is a worldview that reframes human social and biophysical life as an emergent property always at the behest of radical asymmetry and radical contingency. Lyrical, playful, and deadly serious, Petrified aims to provide a new philosophy for a new world coming, through a fable about fidelity to the vicissitudes of the cosmos and what such fidelity can offer us, as endlings.


Dr Wodak is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre for Excellence in Synthetic Biology, and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, UNSW. He works at the intersection of environmental humanities and science and technology studies.