Proposal from Jess

The Crinkle Cutter Project 

Children learn to enact democracy by sitting down to a family meal, night after night after night. The collective table is a means of survival, a form of vulnerable existence, and an instantiation of community.

The Crinkle Cutter Project performatively stages a participatory experience – food preparation, eating, and conversing – to investigate how shared culinary encounters can create alternative (radical?) spaces for affective education.

“Democracy has been described as four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”

What will it look like?

  • Tables and chairs will be laid out – each will have a few participants and one facilitator to establish the research methodology and motivate discussion

  • Participants will be asked to cut vegetables with a crinkle cutter and various dips will be provided

  • The conversations will be recorded with dictaphones and these will be anonymously transcribed and published online

  • Interviews with individuals who participated will be conducted, transcribed and similarly published online

  • Participants and facilitators will be invited to submit text-based responses, or other, yet-to-be-determined interpretations of the process and findings

The methodology

The Crinkle Cutter project is an act of affective and practice-based research. Although a number of questions have been developed to motivate discussion, it is not the intention that the participation be overborne with historical premise. Rather, by starting with a looser style of discussion free from presupposition, we hope to facilitate a more organic interaction amongst participants, which will no doubt open many more avenues of research to be pursued. The crinkle cutter has been chosen because it subtly subverts the process of collective food preparation – we anticipate that most people won’t have used a one before and this enables a slight redress of food privilege (access to and knowledge of food and food preparation).

Subject for discussion

The role of the dinner table in facilitating political education – namely, the enactment of democracy. This is here loosely understood as a collective process of decision making where equality is prioritised. The premise is that negotiation, communication and survival skills are required at the dinner table. When families learn together, and learn to enact these skills with grace, individual development is achieved. But we wonder what happens when this process fails? Is it failing now? Has it ever succeeded?

Proposed facilitator questions

  • What does our reliance on the dinner table as a principle space where children learn the tools of democracy say about our current ‘democratic’ systems? How can we create (metaphoric?) dinner tables which teach us the skills of more direct, radical, forms of democracy?

  • What sorts of learning styles does the dinner table privilege? Who misses out?

  • How do the power dynamics of the dinner table (grandparents/parents/older family members vs. younger family members) enable politicised education? When do they inhibit it?

  • What did your dinner table look like as a child? What has it looked like throughout the stages of your life? What does it look like now? What has been lost or gained and what has changed?

  • Can other spaces e.g. schools/churches/community facilities replace the dinner table in educating children in how they might operate in the world? Is our reliance on parents too extreme? How might we share the burden more evenly among wider communities?

  • Are children without a family, and without a table, also without democracy?

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