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

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

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0691162751

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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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individuals calculating costs and benefits, but rather scholarship that emerges through its collaborations. Thinking through mushrooms, once again, can help. What if we imagined intellectual life as a peasant woodland, a source of many useful products emerging in unintentional design? The image calls up its opposites: In assessment exercises, intellectual life is a plantation; in scholarly entrepreneurship, intellectual life is pure theft, the private appropriation of communal products. Neither

Colloquium, October 19, 2013, http://www.yale.edu/agrarianstudies/colloqpapers/07rackham.pdf. 11. Tabata, “The future role of satoyama.” 12. Matsuo Tsukada, “Japan,” in Vegetation history, ed., B. Huntley and T. Webb III, 459–518 (Dordrecht, NL: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1988). 13. Interview, 2008. Deforestation was associated with logging, shifting cultivation, the spread of intensive agriculture, and residential settlement. See Yamada Asako, Harada Hiroshi, and Okuda Shigetoshi,

matsutake picking, 68, 75–77, 79–80, 82, 94; in mushroom buying, 126–27; Southeast Asian immigrants and, 102, 104, 106; trophies of, 62, 75, 80, 121, 126; in United States, 93–94; war experiences and, 85–90 Freidberg, Susanne, 65 Fremont, John Charles, 195 frontier romanticism, 86 Fujiwara, Mitsuo, 211 fungi: destruction of, by human intervention, 202; growth patterns of, 137; indeterminacy of, 47; and interspecies relations, 137–39; matsutake and, 171; nourishment of, 137–38; pines and,

established Pacific Northwest legacies; they have had to make up their own histories of freedom in the United States. Such histories are guided not only by U.S. bombardment and the subsequent terrors of the Khmer Rouge regime and civil war, but also by their moment of entry into the United States: the shutting down of the U.S. welfare state in the 1980s. No one offered Cambodians stable jobs with benefits. Like other Southeast Asian refugees, they had to make something from what they

scalability; people and nature could join progress by becoming units in its algorithm of expansion. Advancement, ever expanding, would move through them in tandem. All of that now seems increasingly strange. Yet experts in the business world seem to be unable to do without this apparatus for making knowledge. The economic system is presented to us as a set of abstractions requiring assumptions about participants (investors, workers, raw materials) that take us right into twentieth-century

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