Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing has just published a brilliant book on the global trade in a certain kind of mushroom. As much as I’d like to report on it, I feel like I have to get my head around a previous landmark work of hers before attempting it. Here I’m thinking of her book Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2005).
Tsing: “Capitalism, science, and politics all depend on global connections….
Imagining new approaches to the humanities
“What could history have been?” The question asks how events might have turned out otherwise, if only X had happened instead of Y. What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if Hitler had? The official term for this kind of what-if thinking is “counterfactual history,” and it covers anything from an academic’s earnest attempt to imagine the US economy without railroads to Quentin Tarantino’s WWII redux Jewish revenge fantasy, Inglourious Basterds — anything, that is, which imagines history as it did not happen.
But the same question can be the spur to a different kind of speculation.“History,” after all, has two meanings. It’s not just the sum of past events, but the discipline that studies them. …