IIAS Lunch Lecture

Caterpillar fungus boom in pastoral Tibet. What remains?

Jack London, writing about the Klondike Gold Rush, remarked that the true consequences of this phenomenon will show themselves only when the gold miners are gone. While most miners lose money on this enterprise rather than earning it, it is the region itself which would benefit the most. What will remain after another, newer ‘gold rush’ phenomenon which we observed during the last decades on the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas?

Emilia Sulek in her lunch lecture will take us to a pastoral region in the north-eastern Tibetan plateau whose population engaged in ‘caterpillar fungus boom’, a regional economic boom centred around caterpillar fungus, a traditional and now expensive medicinal resource widely sought after at the Chinese market. Her research showed that the pastoralists not only earned substantial income from the collection and sale of this fungus, but used profits to transform their lives and environment in novel ways. What is the scale of this transformation and how much of it will survive the inevitable decline in the caterpillar fungus market?

In this lecture, Dr Sulek will bring observations from her anthropological fieldwork in the region as well as ask questions for future investigations. She will also introduce her book project on which she is working in the IIAS. 

Inline image: Weighing Caterpillar fungus © Mario Biondi; CC BY-SA 3.0

About IIAS Lunch Lectures

Every month, an IIAS researcher or visiting scholar will present his or her work-in-progress in an informal setting to colleagues and other interested attendees. IIAS organises these lunch lectures to give the research community the opportunity to freely discuss ongoing research and exchange thoughts and ideas.