Compiled by Robert: these are personal reflections! Just to set us thinking.

The meeting was to look at individual topics, and how the Kernel’s general themes can contribute specifically.


The topic of community kitchens. 

This also connects with issues of choice.  This is a big topic because neo-liberal paradigm sees choice merely as a Pavlovian reaction to cheep price.  In moving beyond this, we are challenging an important aspect of capitalist alienation.

In terms of food, this choice paradigm can be cured, for example in Community Supported Agriculture.  One way we can represent this, is that an individual household makes ethical/ecological choices to support peri-urban farmers, which may involve not just consuming a box, but visiting the farm etc.

However, with community kitchens the de-alienation would move to a higher level, because there is an ethical/environmental dimension both at the consumption level, and in the engagement with the producer.

And the environmental commitment could also look at the cooking techniques. 

The technical angle of cooking connects with the issue we discussed the previous week around Marx’ position on species-being, since tech. is the interface whereby we transform the world, and cooking has always been a crucial part of this.  Food is transformative.

There is a lot of scope for South-North knowledge transfer.

The issue is one of community care which has both an inter-personal and an environmental angle.

An an example, the research could involve actually designing a community kitchen project, drawing upon international experience and commons theory, as well as participatory co-design in setting it up.  Your research would conduct a critical examination both of the design phase and the initial operation.  The points raised by Yves about endurance would be very interesting.


Some of the same points mentioned above will apply in a different and specific way to this project.  The object of research could similarly involve a critical examination of your own practice. 

‘Patchwork farm’ could be the topic.  It’s an example of commons which highlight specific aspects, notably networks … a very interesting issue .

I completely agree that ‘socially engaged practice’ is co-optable, so this could be a key question: how does this happen … and how can it be avoided! I personally think this is connected to the weaknesses of the Transition Town model overall, which wrongly sought to divorce visioning from the day-to-day challenges and struggles of people (intersectionally) involved in surviving under, and resisting, capitalist alienation.

In ‘seeding the commons’, the Grain Fiddle picks up on some of the same issues addressed above in relation to technique.  In Marx’ theory of alienation, an important aspect is that the technical interface of our species-being, as we transform the world, has traditionally been performative and skilled and brings us closer to the natural world … but with the advent of capitalism, technology turns into a monster which both oppresses and divides people, and alienates them from nature. 

More specifically, mainstream farming tech. is intrinsically geared to non-sustainable farming.  We need equipment specifically evolved for agroecololgy, e.g. zero-tillage.  L’Atelier paysan offers a case which uses very interesting commons techniques around open-source design etc. But we can assimilate it critically: it looks very male and is probably still alienated in some respects!

So the thesis can be grounded on a critical assimilation of existing experience, and then moves onto the process of designing and instituting the alternative.