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

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt

Or, "the (non-)fungibility of the Matsutake fungi".1. Even though, yes, the former comes to us from the Latin fungor (to perform, enjoy), and the latter fungus (mushroom).

The lines have blurred. A natural forest in northern Finland looks a lot like an industrial tree plantation. The trees have become a modern resource, and the way to manage a resource is to stop its autonomous historical action. As long as trees make history, they threaten industrial governance. Cleaning the forest is part of the work of stopping this history. But since when do trees make history?

mushroom-eowp. 167–8


Re-examining mutualism (vs dominant predator-prey ideology)

"hologenome theory of evolution", "holobiont", "symbiopoiesis"

“More and more,” they write, “symbiosis appears to be the ‘rule,’ not the exception. ... Nature may be selecting ‘relationships’ rather than individuals or genomes.”

eco-dev-bio, what-is-life-margulis-sagan

Fire & landscape

"geochemical agency" - vestal-fire


Thom van Dooren (Flight ways [New York: Columbia University Press, 2014]) argues that birds tell stories through the ways they make places into homes. In this meaning of “story,” many organisms tell stories. These are among the traces I watch as “history.”


Japanese supply chains, American marketing

Instead of making value through trade as translation, Nike would use American advantages in advertising and branding. [...] “We don’t know the first thing about manufacturing. We are marketers and designers,” explained one Nike vice-president.* 25 Instead, they contracted with the proliferating supply networks developing across Asia, making good use of the post-1985 profusion of “low-price supplier networks” mentioned above.

mushroom-eowp. 118


On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

... or, snippets to that effect.

"Here soil erosion has done its worst and spread a ghastly destruction over a formerly prosperous landscape . . . which we examined in the summer of 1939. In reality, these cities are dead, with no hope of resurrection; for the basis of their prosperity is gone. These cities have not been buried, but have been left high and stark by the removal of soil through ... erosion. The good earth . . . is completely gone from the slopes except in patches where it is held back by walls of ruined buildings or in pockets in the limestone. In these patches a few vines and olive trees stand as sad remnants of a former profitable use of the land, which provided exports of olive oil and wine to Rome during the empire. Seminomads now inhabit repaired ruins in a few of the former cities." (Conquest of the Land Through 7,000 Years, USDA, Information Bulletin No. 99, 10.)

topsoil-civilizationch. 6


eco-dev-bio Epel, David, and Scott F. Gilbert. Ecological Developmental Biology: The Environmental Regulation of Development, Health, and Evolution. ↩︎ 1

what-is-life-margulis-sagan Margulis, Lynn, and Dorion Sagan. What Is Life?. ↩︎ 1

vestal-fire Pyne, Stephen J. Vestal Fire: An Environmental History, Told Through Fire, of Europe and Europe's Encounter with the World. ↩︎ 1

flight-ways Dooren, Thom Van. Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction. ↩︎ 1

Klein, Naomi. No Logo. ↩︎ 1

topsoil-civilization Dale, Tom, and Vernon Gill Carter. 1955. Topsoil and Civilization. ↩︎ 1

mushroom-eow Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press. ↩︎ 1 2