Anthropologist Anna Tsing will deliver a talk on her current project, titled "Living in Ruins," which examines the extraordinary matsutake mushroom, which thrives in North American clearcuts and is highly valued as a delicacy in Japan.
The February 1 lecture, titled “Capitalism after progress: salvage accumulation on blighted landscapes,” is co-sponsored by the Loyola College for Sustainability, the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, and the McGill University Anthropology Department.
A professor of anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz, Tsing heads up the Matsutake Worlds Research Group, which is “interested in matsutake cultures and ecologies as multispecies worlds where life continues in the midst of great disturbances.”
The mushroom’s unique place in the ecological and economic landscape provides the research group with a clear view of what Tsing refers to as the “riches of global heterogeneity, both terrible and sweet.”
Her work with the matsutake mushroom is a natural extension of Tsing’s earlier scholarly work which questioned the accepted inevitability of globalization, while examining its often ravaging effects on local communities and ecosystems.
“Dr. Tsing is someone I’ve known for a while, and someone whose work I’ve been following and respecting for a long, long time,” says Kregg Hetherington, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, one of the organizers of the talk.
When Tsing accepted to come and speak at Concordia, Hetherington immediately contacted the new Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, which is housed in the newly renamed Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability (formerly Loyola International College). “I knew she would be someone of interest to them,” he said. He was right, and the centre immediately threw its support behind the talk.
“Dr. Tsing’s work exemplifies the interdisciplinary approach that we’re trying to take or promote with the creation of this centre,” says Peter Stoett, professor of political science and the centre’s director. “As academics we need to put more serious thought into the linkages between the local and the global and how that gets manifested in various changes in society. That’s sort of where most of her work goes.”
The talk represents the first official event to receive the centre’s backing, and Stoett is hoping it will help generate interest around its mission, both inside the university and among the larger scholarly community. “Events like this talk serve the purpose of bringing people together and informing them, but also, you can get a sense from the audience of what people are interested in doing.”
Kregg, who arrived at Concordia from Dalhousie University less than a year ago, says knowing that work was underway to create the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre was one of the reasons he came to Montreal.
“The centre gives us the opportunity to create new ways of thinking between our disciplines, and to hopefully generate new research projects that involve people looking at problems such as climate change from different angles.”
Singling out the place of the matsutake mushroom on the global landscape is certainly a unique angle for examining the relationship between local and global economic forces, local communities and the environment.
“What would the world look like if we examined it without expectations of progress?” Tsing asks. “A charismatic wild mushroom helps me view the world through disturbed forests and displaced rural people — that is, through humans and non-humans negotiating progress’s ruins.”
What: Lecture by Anna Tsing: “Capitalism after progress: salvage accumulation on blighted landscapes”
When: Friday, February 1 from 2 to 4 p.m. (updated time)
Where: Room H-415, Henry F. Hall Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), Sir George Williams Campus
• Loyola Sustainability Research Centre
• Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability
• Anna Tsing lecture poster