The Mushroom at the End of the World

The Mushroom at the End of the World

On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

Book - 2015
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What a rare mushroom can teach us about sustaining life on a fragile planet

Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world--and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. In all its contradictions, matsutake offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: what manages to live in the ruins we have made?

A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction.

By investigating one of the world's most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.

Publisher: Princeton :, Princeton University Press,, [2015]
Copyright Date: ℗♭2015
ISBN: 9780691162751
Branch Call Number: 304.2 TSI 2015
Characteristics: xii, 331 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm


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Jul 26, 2016

Reading The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is like having a window into the mind of Akhilandeshvari (the Hindu Goddess also known as Never-Not-Broken). All potential comes from embracing the cataclysmic, transformative process of change, world building and interconnectedness that all living and non-living entities share.

She expands your mind to see not just with the blinders of linear progress unaware of greater patterns, but of seeing the entire four (five? Forty-two?) dimensional mandala of interconnectedness. She draws on madrigal and fugue music’s polyphonic aspect – autonomous melodies intertwined – to help the reader begin to perceive the greater joy and truth of complexity. She defines contamination as transformation through encounter.

Read it. Feel stupid for a while. And then feel expanded.

Mar 25, 2016

I would highly recommend this book to anyone seriously looking for help in how to think about the world that made us and the ruins we've made with our life-ways. Fascinating and often delightful and hopeful.

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