The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

Author(s): Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

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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.


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Winner of Bloomberg Businessweek's Best Books of the Year 2016 and Winner of the 2016 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology 2016. Commended for Northern California Book Awards in General Nonfiction, Northern California Book Reviewers 2016. Short-listed for "Flavorwire"'s 10 Best Books by Academic Publishers 2015 and "Kirkus Reviews" Best Nonfiction Books of the Year in Science 2015 and "Kirkus Reviews" Best Nonfiction Books of the Year in Business and Economics 2015 and "Times Higher Education"'s Best Books of the Year 2015.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Niels Bohr Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, where she codirects Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). She is the author of Friction and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen (both Princeton).

*Frontmatter, pg. i*Contents, pg. v*Enabling Entanglements, pg. vii*Prologue. Autumn Aroma, pg. 1*1. Arts of Noticing, pg. 11*2. Contamination as Collaboration, pg. 27*3. Some Problems with Scale, pg. 37*4. Working the Edge, pg. 55*5. Open Ticket, Oregon, pg. 73*6. War Stories, pg. 85*7. What Happened to the State? Two Kinds of Asian Americans, pg. 97*8. Between the Dollar and the Yen, pg. 109*9. From Gifts to Commodities-and Back, pg. 121*10. Salvage Rhythms: Business in Disturbance, pg. 131*11. The Life of the Forest, pg. 149*12. History, pg. 167*13. Resurgence, pg. 179*14. Serendipity, pg. 193*15. Ruin, pg. 205*16. Science as Translation, pg. 217*17. Flying Spores, pg. 227*18. Matsutake Crusaders: Waiting for Fungal Action, pg. 251*19. Ordinary Assets, pg. 267*20. Anti-ending: Some People I Met along the Way, pg. 277*Notes, pg. 289*Index, pg. 323

General Fields

  • : 9780691178325
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : September 2017
  • : 229mm X 152mm
  • : July 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
  • : Paperback
  • : 1707
  • : 352
  • : 29 b/w illus.