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Book Launch / What a Mushroom Lives For by Michael Hathaway

June 15, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PDT



On Wednesday, June 15 at 6pm, join Massy ArtsMassy Books, and researcher and professor Michael Hathaway for the launch of his new book: “What a Mushroom Lives For: Matsutake And the Worlds They Make” (Princeton University Press, 2022).

For this launch, Hathaway will be joined by Gitga’at doctoral student Spencer Greening (La’goot) to discuss the ways that Western science often limits our understandings of the many living beings we share our lives with.

At the event, the researchers will talk about different mushrooms, trees, and salmon, among many other species to show what the world might look like through ways of seeing that recognize the liveliness of all things. Hathaway will draw mainly from his work with Yi peoples of Himalayan China as well as a handful of unorthodox scientists in the Global North, and Spencer from Gitga’at and other Indigenous understandings. After the discussions, they will create a space for an intimate Q&A session with attendees.

The event will be hosted at the Massy Arts Gallery, at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.

This event is free + open to all of our community, and registration is mandatory.

Covid Protocols: For all in-person events, attendees must provide proof of vaccination, wear a mask (N95 masks are encouraged and recommended as they offer the best protection), and consent to having their temperature checked at the front door. We ask that if you are showing any symptoms, that you stay home. Thank you kindly.

This event is part of Massy Voices, an ever-evolving collection of book launches, exclusive interviews, and artist talks that celebrate community voices and the stories they carry. Click here to know more.

Click here to register for the event

Click here to purchase What a Mushroom Lives For

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Book Synopsis

What a Mushroom Lives For pushes today’s mushroom renaissance in compelling new directions. For centuries, Western science has promoted a human- and animal-centric framework of what counts as action, agency, movement, and behavior.

But, as Michael Hathaway shows, the world-making capacities of mushrooms radically challenge this orthodoxy by revealing the lively dynamism of all forms of life.

The book tells the fascinating story of one particularly prized species, the matsutake, and the astonishing ways it is silently yet powerfully shaping worlds, from the Tibetan plateau to the mushrooms’ final destination in Japan.

Many Tibetan and Yi people have dedicated their lives to picking and selling this mushroom—a delicacy that drives a multibillion-dollar global trade network and that still grows only in the wild, despite scientists’ intensive efforts to cultivate it in urban labs.

But this is far from a simple story of humans exploiting a passive, edible commodity. Rather, the book reveals the complex, symbiotic ways that mushrooms, plants, humans, and other animals interact. It explores how the world looks to the mushrooms, as well as to the people who have grown rich harvesting them.

A surprise-filled journey into science and human culture, this exciting and provocative book shows how fungi shape our planet and our lives in strange, diverse, and often unimaginable ways.

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Author + Guests

Michael Hathaway is a professor of anthropology at Simon Fraser University, where he also directs the David Lam Centre for Asian Studies.

He has worked in Southwest China for many years, exploring the fascinating cultural and biological diversity there, from the high Himalayan peaks to the tropical rainforests where he lived in villages among China’s last herds of wild elephants.

The author of the prize-winning book, Environmental Winds: Making the Global in Southwest China, he has just finished his new book, working closely with a dynamic collaborative team, the Matsutake Worlds Research Group.

Recently selected as a Guggenheim Fellow, Michael has been actively learning from many peers, both human and non-human, as he works to open up new ways of understanding and relating to the wild world around us full of many organisms.

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Spencer Greening (La’goot) is from the Tsimshian community of the Gitga’at First Nation. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Interdisciplinary studies at Simon Fraser University and a Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar.

His research looks at the relationship between Gitga’at traditional ecological knowledge, language, and history in the context of Indigenous resource management.

Spencer holds a bachelor’s degree in First Nations/Indigenous Studies and an MA in Anthropology from the University of Northern British Columbia. His broader research interests include Indigenous governance systems, cultural and political identities, and pairing Indigenous oral histories with archeology.

All his work revolves around his deep connection to his home community, elders, territories, and the self-determination and decolonization of Indigenous peoples. Spencer is actively engaged with cultural roles and work within the community of Hartley Bay and the greater Tsimshian Nation. His personal connection to this work is very important, when he is not engaging with it professionally, he is spending as much time as he can on his traditional territory learning from his Elders.

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June 15, 2022
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PDT