I have been a fan of your work since I read Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (2005) at the beginning of my graduate studies, so I don’t know why it has taken me this long to pick up The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015). But since I started reading it in late August, I can’t stop thinking about your project.
It offers such a captivating invitation- to follow the lifeways of matsutake, wild mushrooms, and the lives it assembles. Who would’ve thought that a project could be built around a single type of mushroom? …But you did. I’m sure there were and still are people who would dismiss a work like this for daring to focus on something so small and, some would say, insignificant. And yet, you elegantly show us how following matsutake opens up whole worlds.
Your work has attuned me to new ways of seeing and understanding received categories and concepts–capitalism, ecology, labor, freedom, precarity, and ruin. I am still in awe of how deftly you take readers from the day-to-day struggles of mushroom foragers searching for matsutake in the forests of Oregon and the complicated stories of how and why they began picking mushrooms for a living, to consider broad-scale questions about ecological devastation and forest renewal, to how matsutake enter capitalist markets and informal gift economies in Japan.