Mushroom at the End of the World

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UPC: 9780691178325
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Author: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
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  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (September 19, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691178321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691178325
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches

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.


"The anthropologist Anna Tsing joins a range of scholars exploring the ongoing devastation of our environment and undoing the old binary of ‘nature' and ‘society'--in this case, taking the charismatic Matsutake mushroom as her protagonist, tracing its existence within ecosystems, markets, and cultures across the globe. I'm interested in this rather remarkable book, both in its empathetic meditations on ‘companion species' and in its experimental mode of history writing."---James Graham, Metropolis

"The book will be of considerable interest at the complex intersection of social science, natural science and humanities. That is where anthropology is ideally located but achieving this is rather rare. . . . Without ever lecturing at the reader or hammering on some academic conviction, the book instead reveals a range of things that are variously urgent and pleasant, keeping ecological disaster in sight while allowing plenty of time for curiosity, diversity and surprise."---Hjorleifur Jonsson, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

"The Mushroom at the End of the World is a poetic and remarkably fertile exploration of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, and what can still be done to stem its rapid deterioration."---Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian

"An outstanding book that speaks to core questions in contemporary geography. . . . The Mushroom at the End of the World abundantly deserves the praises and awards it has garnered since its publication, and I could not endorse it more strongly."---William E. O'Brien, American Association of Geographers Review of Books

"One of Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 in Science"

"[An] extraordinary book."---Jim Igoe, American Anthropologist

"The publisher can really be congratulated. Rarely can one immerse oneself into an academic work with informative and sensuous pictures and figures that set a pace and allow the reader to explore the senses of smelling, grabbing, searching and walking. Tsing's book is not a conclusive analysis of post-capitalist processes but an outline for living sensuously, creatively and freely with each other."---Jenni Mölkäken, Suomen Antropologi

"It’s an anthropological and environmental study, but it’s almost written like a novel."---Cate Le Bon, The Guardian

"Highly original. . . . This book brilliantly turns the commerce and ecology of this most rare mushroom into a modern parable of post-industrial survival and environmental renewal."---Peter D Smith, The Guardian

"One of Flavorwire’s 10 Best Books by Academic Publishers in 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).