Reading Group

Mushroom Reading Group

Photograph: Gunhild E Nyberg

The Matsutake Reading Group took place during 2021 inspired by Anna L. Tsing’s multispecies feminist perspective, reading the world through the matsutake mushroom (Tsing, 2015).

Rethinking the concepts and aesthetics of sustainability from new perspectives, the reading group aims to develop a critical dialogue between theory and practice, where both have equal agency, to find ways of empowering a social production of knowledge.

This key text integrates different modes of geopolitical research enquiry with sensory and performative interludes. Inspired by Tsing’s approach to the forest, the group gathers online and at specific locations to read texts, images, objects and spaces, sharing creative practices and ideas through reading, walking, and foraging.

The first sessions are led by Nella Aarne to collectively read Anna L. Tsing’s book The Mushroom at the End of the World: The possibility of life in capitalist ruins, 2015, Princeton.

As an open-ended practice of collaborative learning, reading groups open radically democratic spaces, within which ideas and practices can evolve and transform in (and due to) the presence of others. Intellectual and creative life is fundamentally social – research and creative practices never develop in isolation but, rather, in relation to others and at the intersections of different knowledges, perspectives and experiences. Whilst providing a generative context for these processes, reading groups also make them explicit. Facilitating multiple voices, reading group discussions unfold like patchworks of collective-making-sense without a sovereign leader who would alone hold the authority of interpretation. They resist the vertical dynamics of a master and an apprentice, and relieve the urge for territorial autonomy in individualist scholarly endeavours. Instead, reading groups establish and sustain lateral connections across disciplinary boundaries, and build intellectual camaraderie over unfinished thoughts.  

Nella Aarne, October 2021. 


Fri 11 Jun 21 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm


Fri 27 Aug 21 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm


In this session we will focus on:

Chapter 4: Working at the Edge
Chapter 10: Salvage Rhythms: Business in Disturbance

Let’s read Chapter 4 on our own and Chapter 10 out loud when we come together.

Architect Toms Kokins will also discuss his research on the Swedish Timber Empire in relation to Tsing’s book. Toms research explores the resource driven colonisation in modern-day Europe through the timber craze in the Baltic region.

Chapter 4 ‘Working at the Edge’ opens the second part of the book, which focuses on economies as diverse and shifting assemblages where precarity is a constant. Tsing argues that, although capitalism might seem like an all encompassing entity, within which all market mechanisms would follow an identical logic, this image of capitalism as a monolith is reductive. Within the tangled webs that constitute the conditions of a particular market, unpredictable social relations are formed, complex supply chains weave across the planet, notions of labour and freedom are multifaceted, and any human or nonhuman activity holds the potential to be translated into accumulation of wealth.

Wed 22 Sep 21 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm


In this session we will focus on

Chapter 11: The Life of the Forest
Chapter 12: History

Let’s read Chapter 11 on our own, and Chapter 12 out loud when we come together.

Artist Gerd Aurell will also discuss her research on the Swedish Forest in relation to Tsing’s book. Gerd’s art practice investigates hormoslyr, herbicides used in the Swedish forests to kill deciduous trees and transform the forest into an industrial monoculture. Gerd is currently researching the visible archive of evidence of human entanglements with the forest.

Chapters 11 and 12 open the third part of the book, which taps into the idea of (human and nonhuman) disturbance as a continuous condition of multispecies worlds. For Tsing, disturbance is something that shifts landscapes by introducing new ways of living into existing assemblages and whilst bringing other ways of being to an end. Tsing takes the managed pine forests of Northern Finland – possibly very similar to the industrial forests around Umeå – as a case study to think through the unintentional designs that surface through attempts at multispecies survival.

Tue 9 Nov 21 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm


Chapter 13 – Resurgence (read on your own)

Chapter 16 – Science as Translation (read together)

Discuss together how to go on and conclude the reading.

Fri 10 Dec 21 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Matsutake mushroom picking

Erik Persson will talk about Matsutake mushroom picking in Västerbotten

Chapter 17: Flying Spores (read on your own)

Chapter 19: Ordinary Assets (read on your own)

Interlude – Dancing (read together)

Discuss about future reading groups