This talk introduces the second book in an academic trilogy that began with Anna L. Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World. In this talk, Michael J. Hathaway draws from his new book, What a Mushroom Lives For: Matsutake and the Worlds They Make. He delves into the worlds of fungi, showing us how they literally enabled our green planet and carry out active forms of liveliness in the everyday, acting as “world-makers.” Moving from fungi as an enigmatic kingdom that transformed the ancient Earth to the realm of the fascinating matsutake mushroom on the Tibetan Plateau, Hathaway reveals the ways these mushrooms are creating their own multispecies encounters, with and without humans. This book challenges a legacy of human exceptionalism and human supremacy that is dominant in Western thinking and offers ways to notice the creative liveliness of all organisms, from mammals to mushrooms.
Michael J. Hathaway is a professor of anthropology and director of the David Lam Center for Asian Studies at Simon Fraser University. He is part of the Matsutake Worlds Research Group, which has been exploring the global trade in these valuable wild mushrooms, from the US, Canada, Scandinavia, and China to its centre in Japan. Together, they examine the entanglements of capitalism, science, and the formation of new networks that link stitch together diverse humans, matsutake mushrooms, and a number of other organisms in complex webs of life.