It’s a sort of experimental title that begins to explain itself simply by unpacking each of its terms. “Speculative” (or “speculation” more generally) means “contemplation,” “seeing,” or “observing.” It’s also a term used when transactions involve a considerable risk or unknown outcome. So one could say that “speculation” is the art or practice of risky contemplation. The second word, “ecology,” likewise has a variety of meanings. As a whole the word refers to the branch of science dealing with organisms, environments, and their coevolution. Of course the “eco” comes from “oikos” which is greek for “home” or “dwelling place,” and the “logy” usually means something like the science, discourse, or theory “of” something; sometimes the “logy” refers to the verb “legein”—“to speak”—which of course relates to the greek “logos” which can variously mean “reason” or “divine word,” and so forth. So “ecology,” then, is the logos of dwelling—perhaps almost always in a coevolutionary context—for what are beings dwelling in besides other beings! We could then define “Speculative Ecology” as the risky contemplation of the coevolutionary logos of inter-dwelling beings. Good things at work here.
We could perform a similar exercise with the word “Anthropocene.” “Anthropos” commonly means “man” (yes, how ridiculously gendered), and, more appropriately, “human being.” But it also has a more interesting history, because it can also be explained as a combination of “aner” and “ops” or “eye” and “face” so that the “Anthropos” is that which has a face and can see. I suppose, then, that the very concept of “Anthropos” could be extended to nonhumans, and, by extension, could afford something like “personhood” to all those other creatures as well—but it would have to be a kind of ecological personhood not limited to human likeness. “Cene,” on the other hand, refers to geological periods in the Earth’s history. So “Anthropocene” could mean something like the epoch in Earth’s history when ecological personhood emerges on a global scale. Taken together, then, “Speculative Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene” would literally mean the risky contemplation of the coevolutionary logos of inter-dwelling beings in the age of ecological personhood. I think this is an entirely appropriate description of the task at hand: As the environmental humanities begin to realize that the face of the other is just as present in nonhumans as it is in humans I think we could use a bit more Speculative Ecology!