Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz (USA) and at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, Anna Tsing is an anthropologist and author of a notable, remarkable book - The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Anna Tsing 


n ethnographic study of the matsutake mushroom (a highly prized commodity in Japan), Anna Tsing's book is an investigation into the worlds this mushroom helps to make or reconfigure. Touching on aspects of biology, sociology, political science and economics, as well as music, dance and poetry, her tales of hazardous growth, semi-clandestine harvesting and globalised trade bring together a diversity of human and non-human actors who now share a common condition: that of precariousness.

Her investigations are a fertile resource for philosophical reflection on the ways of living in damaged worlds. Anna Tsing's ethnographic work is rooted in an acute awareness of ecological upheavals. Convinced that progress is now at the end of its course, she explores various narrative structures to describe the present situation and to identify some glimmers of hope for a collaborative multi-species survival.

Anna Tsing's work is resolutely inscribed in this contemporary mutation of anthropology, which is increasingly practiced as an investigation into different worlds and ways of life. This 'ontological turning point' is accompanied by the need for a permanent reinvention of investigative practices, which requires anthropologists to act with both sensitivity and imagination.

The path of her investigation leads Anna Tsing to create, or re-elaborate, a certain number of fundamental philosophical concepts ('precariousness', 'scalability', 'salvage accumulation') at the crossroads of the philosophy of biology, the anthropology of science and technology, and feminist reinterpretations of the Marxist theory of primitive accumulation.

Anna Tsing succeeds in this rare feat of writing a scientific work that is both extremely rigorous and erudite, and yet reads like a novel, allowing her to explore registers of sensoriality or affectivity that are generally only tackled in literature. For all these reasons, her work constitutes a major contribution to the experimentation of new practices of investigation and speculative narrative. The study of her work now seems unavoidable for a reflection on the forms of critical knowledge required in a situation of unprecedented anthropological and ecological upheaval.

The recognition of the originality and importance of Anna Tsing's work is a way of highlighting the keen interest in new critical knowledge within the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Liège. It is also an opportunity to reflect together on the conditions that allow for the development of this knowledge, as well as on possible forms of collaborative resistance to the ecological disasters that affect our teaching and research communities.


Doctors honoris causa upon proposal by faculties in 2020