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The eternal return: Imagining security futures at the Doomsday Vault

Harrington, Cameron

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This article examines how imaginaries of security in the Anthropocene function at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV), otherwise known as the ‘Doomsday Vault’. Recent explorations by scholars of security have suggested that different ways of seeing, understanding, acting in, and imagining the world are necessary to adequately respond to complex crises in the Anthropocene. The dissolution of the nature/culture divide and the existential risk from planetary threats are said to require new and creative formations of security. Buried in the Norwegian high Arctic, the heavily fortified SGSV was built in 2008 as a planetary-scale, ‘deep-time organisation’ that would forever secure a wide variety of plant seeds and their genetic makeup against regional or global upheavals. The article argues that his seed ‘ark’ materialises three Anthropocene security imaginaries: apocalypse, hope and escape. The prevalence and use of these imaginaries reveal the stability of long-held security logics and challenge the widely-held belief in the innately transformative properties of the Anthropocene concept for security. Instead, the SGSV demonstrates the difficulty in overcoming a collective mindfulness that fixes security to eternal forms even in the midst of unprecedented threats, interventions and technology.


Harrington, C. (2023). The eternal return: Imagining security futures at the Doomsday Vault. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 6(4), 2614–2635.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 15, 2022
Publication Date 2023-12
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2023
Journal Environment and planning E : nature and space.
Print ISSN 2514-8486
Electronic ISSN 2514-8494
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 4
Pages 2614–2635
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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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