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Making Matsutake Worlds: A Transnational Commodity Chain from Southwest China

UC Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies hosts a talk with Michael Hathaway

February 5, 2016 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Speaker: Michael Hathaway, Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
Panelist/Discussant: You-tien Hsing, Chair, CCS; Professor, Geography, UCB
Sponsors: Center for Chinese Studies (CCS), Institute of East Asian Studies

Environmental China Colloquium 2

This talk engages with the ways a wild mushroom, the matsutake, has an active materiality and liveliness that shapes the ways a commodity network is built up around it and with it, especially as it moves between the high mountains of Southwest China to urban markets in Japan. This mushroom has now become the leading agricultural export for Yunnan Province, and the matsutake economy employs hundreds of thousands of people. It draws on my work with the Matsutake Worlds Research Group, a collaborative group of six anthropologists who explore the worlds fostered by this mushroom. We work in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Scandinavia, China and Japan, investigating how a wide range of people engage with the matsutake, as pickers, dealers, scientists and consumers. In this talk, I ask how we might look at both human and non-human particularities to understand commodities in different ways. How do ethnic Yi and Tibetan pickers engage differently with this influential economy? In terms of the mushroom itself, how does the presence of other species, such as insects who seek out the mushroom as food and hunting ground create new challenges for humans? How did the mushroom’s strong attraction to radioactivity impinge upon its circulation following the disastrous Fukushima accident?

Event Contact:, 510-643-6321