Six years ago, in a lovely part of Tuscany, there was some tension between my married friends, an English solicitor and his Albanian wife. She was obviously miffed about something but every time she started telling me about it he hoved into view. They united as a couple, against me, during a conversation about mushrooms. We’d picked some for tea and I mentioned raids on English woods by foreign gangs and similar depredations on Kent oyster beds.
He dismissed the stories as racist poppycock and I couldn’t have been more unpopular if I’d mentioned Rochdale grooming gangs or foreign criminals avoiding deportation. When they saw me off at the ferry, I knew I wouldn’t be invited back.
Their objection to any mention of fungi theft was explained, well almost, in the latest Private Eye Pseud’s Corner, in an extract from a lecture at Loughborough University: ‘Othering Mushrooms; Migratism & its racist entanglements in the Brexit Campaign. Deploying the ambivalence of mushrooms in the cultural imagination as an analytical lens, and drawing from Sarah Ahmed’s (2010) theorization (sic) of ‘othering’ as an embodied process, the presentation examines the Brexit campaign’s migratism and its racist entanglements.’
Their suspicions about me were correct; I worry about mushroom theft aka I am a racist, a Brexiteer and other words I’ve not read before:
‘Dr Lenka Vrablikova argues that research on how forests, mushrooms and their foragers have figured in the formation of white hetereopatriarchy is vital for contesting the re-emergence of right-wing populism that, in Europe, is exemplified by events such as Brexit.’
Since 2014 the Guardian and the Daily Express have reported on the destruction of our mushroom crops. Two years ago, there was a report that the City of London Corporation, which manages Epping Forest where there are 1,600 fungi species across six thousand acres, is greatly concerned that the area’s biodiversity is threatened by foreign foraging gangs which regularly harvest huge numbers of fungi on an industrial scale. These are sold illegally to London restaurants for high prices. According to Graeme Doshi-Smith, chairman of the corporation’s Commons Committee, ‘Hoovering up fungi on a large scale is ecologically damaging and is simply unsustainable.’
In her online CV Dr Lenka Vrablikova described her work: ‘During this Postdoctoral fellowship, I focused on developing existing scholarship as well as initiating new collaborative research projects in feminist thought and practice, connecting research conducted at the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies with other spaces of feminist scholarship around the world. In particular, this includes research projects by ن سوي ةال قرائ ات ش ب كة /Sdružení feministických čtení/Feminist Readings Network and ‘A feminist Space at Leeds’, a research collective initiated at the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies in 2017, as well as a research project with Dr Elspeth Mitchell (Louborough University), which interrogates feminist academic work through the practice of feminist reading and mushroom hunting.’
(Amid this display of brilliance she might have spelled Loughborough correctly) Her theory on the ‘cultural significance of mushrooms’ is based on previous work by Rd. Sara Ahmed, from the University of Surrey.
Ahmed, who wears a Niqab, is Assistant Professor in Organisational ‘Behaviours,’ (sic) and HRM, PhD, MSc. BA, FHEA, MCIPD. She was the worthy winner of the 2015, ‘Remarkable Brunel Women Award,’ and a British Academy/Leverhulme research grant award worth £10k.
This doesn’t seem to be a hoax, on the lines of Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay in the US who submitted twenty absurd academic papers to journals of Sociology and got almost all of them published. Success in academia does now partly rest on inventing clumsy, sententious neologisms such as ‘migratism,’ and ‘othering,’ to form a new language of woke discourse. This provides both group identity for believers, and ironically, ‘others,’ outsiders.
The pervasive attitude behind this new tongue is not so laughable. Ethnic minorities and groups are now not just legally ‘protected,’ by the 2010 Equalities Act, but cannot be criticised. Those that do might be guilty of ‘migratism,’ ‘othering,’ and worst of all ‘Brexiteering.’
Certain groups now seem to be above the law even if their crimes have been largely against women, such as the Pakistani grooming gangs, who were ignored for years, and the convicted Jamaican rapists who have just escaped deportation.
This week eighty-two black public figures, including Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, historian David Olusoga, lawyers, broadcasters, and Windrush campaigners contacted airlines urging them not to carry fifty-seven convicted Jamaican rapists and murderers, due to be deported in early December. Only thirteen have now gone. Scores were hauled off the plane at the last minute after legal challenges by what the Home Office said were human rights solicitors, ‘on the phones to judges in their pyjamas.’
In our country of mushrooming idiocy, rape and murder are seen by many in our state institutions as far less heinous than the sin of, ‘white hetereopatriarchy,’ whatsoever that may be.