Folk Cited Recap: Queer Mycology and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

An image of a stack of books with two 3D printed slugs on top. There are also plants and a sign in the background that reads “Folkwise is Alive @ Worm theory.” The texts included are: “Mushroom at the End of the World” by Anna Tsing; “Entangled Life” by Merlín Sheldrake; “The Multispecies Salon” ed. by Eben Kirksey; “Performing Environmentalisms” ed. by McDowell, Borland, Dirksen, and Tuohy; “Finding the Mother Forest” by Suzanne Simard; “Radical Mycology” by Peter McCoy.

Mycology is the study of fungi, which includes mushrooms and yeasts. This is an interdisciplinary field most notably carried out in hard sciences and biological fields, but has branched out into other disciplines and collaborations, including grassroots and community movements. These groups work together with fungi to help us better understand the influence of fungus on our collective worlds. Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake is this episode’s catalyst for questions and discussions related to the wonderful worlds of mycology and folklore, and was an opportunity for our community of viewers to share emerging ideas about what these two areas can say about each other.

I am personally interested in this as a folklorist because of the interdisciplinary and emergent scholarship that comes out of mycological exploration. It informs us not only about the significance of sociability in the movement of life on earth, but also how these interconnected relationships between fungi and other subjects exist for such long periods of time, geologically speaking, and help us think differently about our relationships to the planet and other human and non-human organisms we interact with every day.

It is an obvious way, to me, for the values of emergence and community collaboration to guide the pursuit of knowledge. From all disciplines and angles, the science of fungi has shaped these strategies as much as folklore and humanities scholarship shape and are shaped by human communities. I think a collaboration between these visionary fields is an ideal fit for deepening our understanding of the formation and sustenance of our everyday relationships and subsequent development of knowledge that does not 1) center humans and 2) actively works against dominant and traditionally harmful individualistic pursuits of knowledge that undergird Western institutions. Mushrooms and folklore are a match – a lichen composed of a fungus and an oxygen-giving alga.

You can watch this Folk Cited Episode in two parts: Part 1 is listed on our YouTube channel, and Part 2 is available to $5+ patrons on our Patreon. Give us a like and a shoutout if you found the content entertaining and would like us to continue making Folk Cited episodes like this one!

With joy,
Daisy Ahlstone

This Episode of Folk Cited Features Discussions of:

  • Decomposition & Decay
  • Biopolitics
  • The Body (Individual vs Community)
  • Zombies
  • The Death Drive
  • Favorite chapters of Entangled Life and what they inspired for Daisy and Shirley
  • Queerness and Mycology (Transformation, Community, and Persistence)
  • What mycology and folklore share (emergence, collaboration, community-centered thinking)

Text recommendations inspired by this episode:

  • Mushroom at the End of the World by Anna Tsing
  • The Multispecies Salon ed. by Eben Kirksey
  • Performing Environmentalisms: Expressive Culture and Ecological Change ed. by John McDowell, Katherine Borland, Rebecca Dirksen, and Sue Tuohy
  • Finding the Mother Forest by Suzanne Simard
  • Radical Mycology by Peter McCoy
  • Zombies: A Cultural History by Roger Luckhurst
  • 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger

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