Living in the Ruins of Capitalism

The daughter of friends was telling me recently about the almost completed PhD thesis she is writing at UCLA’s History Department. It is, she explained, a gendered study of post-war Japanese photography and its connection to the development of that nation’s all-conquering camera industry. Coincident with the final touches to the last chapter of her study, will be the birth of her first child, due in July. We spoke at her baby shower. I talked of matsutake mushrooms (made flesh in The Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, 2015), she of Japanese camera manufacturer’s use of female models in their splashy advertisements featured in American magazines such as Life and National Geographic – media that somehow encapsulated the buoyant optimism of the post-war American era whilst its manufacturing base was, all the while, being fatally eroded by both its own hubristic triumphalism and the startling prowess of Japanese technology.

The subtext to our polite conversation, at this celebration of an impending birth was, I now reflect, the death of the Man/Nature dichotomy long underpinned by what Tsing characterizes as “the moral intentionality of Man’s Christian masculinity”. Liberated from these strictures, the PhD candidate has the opportunity to write a gendered history and I to read (and recommend) a book written by an academic who, using tales of the global supply chain of the matsutake mushroom, touches all the pulse points of…

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