Blasted Landscapes (And the Gentle Art of Mushroom Picking)

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by Anna Tsing

Ruins are now our gardens. Degraded (“blasted”) landscapes produce our livelihoods. And even the most promising oasis of natural plenty requires massive interventions to be maintained.

Telling the stories of entangled connections involving people and mushrooms does not bring us into an all-encompassing harmony with nature. Instead stories about forests where matsutake mushrooms grow involve  both social and natural disturbance. After the Americans dropped an atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima during the Second World War, they explained, the first live thing to grow in the charred and blasted landscape was matsutake. With these mushrooms, displaced and disempowered people find life on blasted landscapes.

Mushroom lovers must wait patiently for the life processes of fungi within disturbed forests. In this waiting is the beginning of an appreciation for multispecies ecologies and open-ended landscape histories.

Read Chapter Three: Blasted Landscapes (and the Gentle Arts of Mushroom Picking) on Google Books

Matsutake Worlds Website
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing is a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Niels Bohr Professor in the Department of Culture and Society at Aarhus University in Denmark. She is the author of In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place (1994) and Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2005). She is collaborating with other ethnographers in the Matsutake Worlds Research Group to study global scientific, ecological, and commercial connections involving matsutake mushrooms.

Anna Tsing: UC Santa Cruz profile
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a companion to the book