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Science is a translation machine. Not only because protocols and zealous
technicians select the parts to be integrated into a unified system of knowledge.
Science is also translation because its insights are drawn from diverse ways of life.
(217) Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing develops a science of the ecologies of encounter.
This science looks at every form of life across every link of the supply chain.
Every link is a source of surplus; and every link is valorized in the translation
from one form of life into another. This science behaves as unresolved translation.
Interpreting nature, as in the case of the Japanese matsutake science of Shiho
Satsuka, requires training with both the machinic parts and “the eruption of
difference.” Adventures of difference are at the core of Tsing’s groundbreaking
work The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibilities of Life in Capitalist
Ruins. Tsing’s biocentrism decenters the tales of the anthropos. The matsutake
mushroom is the nonhuman protagonist. The nonhuman lens allows multiple
transformative commodifications to emerge, and to reveal how a commodity
organizes life-cycles across the species. Or better yet, how life organizes itself
around patches of local semantics.
Tsing revels in the messiness of science. Here the mushroom plays as
a metaphor for unpredictable insurgencies. A delicacy on the Japanese and
international market, the matsutake is mostly picked in Oregon and other similarly
deforested areas. This labor is carried out by Southern Asian immigrants, as a
post-modern manifestation of freedom, and a side-job. The entanglements of
markets, rituals, the stories of pickers, environmental histories, laws, philosophies
and everyday life are so tight, that the book enhances a morphology of worldhistorical