In the second episode of Spoken Earth, Adam Weymouth speaks with Professor Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing about her book The Mushroom at the End of the World, and how the matsutake mushroom can help us to see ourselves in another light.
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is a professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of several books, most recently The Mushroom at the End of the World. Anna’s book takes the matsutake mushroom as its subject, a luxury product traded for vast sums in Japan, but one that refuses to be cultivated. It thrives best where old growth forest has been logged, and Tsing explores these landscapes, in particular in the Pacific Northwest. Here, she discovers various migrants and others characters making a living from the crop in these ruined landscapes, and the sprawling networks of global supply chains that refuse to be standardised.
By examining the webs that hold all these different elements in place, she suggests a new way to conceive of nature. Not as something external, on a one way trajectory towards decay, but as a messy network of both ruin and flourishing, with people very much entangled within it.