University of Colorado at Boulder

Other Event

Monday February 11, 2013. 12:00 pm. GUGG 201E

"Following the Caterpillar Fungus: Nature, Commodity Chains, and the Place of Tibet in China's Uneven Geographies" presented by Emily Yeh

Emily Yeh

Professor of Geography, CU-Boulder ; Associate Faculty of CAS

This Center for Asian Studies brown bag event will feature a talk by Emily Yeh, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography. Caterpillar fungus has become the single most important source of income for rural Tibetans in China. Skyrocketing prices have enabled Tibetans to navigate the increasingly cash-intensive economy while also fueling conflicts and engendering moral quandaries. Dr. Yeh examines political and moral economies along the commodity chain, focusing on the cultural politics of value and how these intersect with inequality in China’s uneven geography of capitalism. A more-than-human analytical framework points to the role of caterpillar fungus in creating an assemblage in which Tibetans are articulated with the commodity chain. However, a geographic imaginary of a pristine Tibetan nature erases the labor of Tibetan harvesters and constitutes Tibet as a natural resource for a Chinese middle class anxious about health and pollution, maintaining deep-rooted inequalities. A new set of meanings has also emerged to sell caterpillar fungus, centered on the biomolecular nature of its active ingredients rather than Tibetan nature, risking Tibetans’ complete disarticulation from the commodity chain. The erasure of Tibetan labor and nature parallels the erasure of Tibetan political grievances and Tibetans themselves. This case calls for an expansion of the scope of commodity fetishism as well as opening up the ‘human’ in more-than-human geographies.

This event is free and open to the public. For a complete list of CAS Brown Bag events, please visit