The TWIG Research Kitchen is feminist research space for tinkering with convivial, non-extractive, and nourishing modes of research about toxicity, infrastructure, and waste across the social sciences and humanities. TWIG is housed in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, Mississauga (UTM) and is founded and run by Professor Zoë Wool, with support from the Department of Anthropology at UTM, as well as the Collaborative Digital Research Space and the Critical Digital Humanities Initiative.
We are currently a virtual space. In 2023, we will have a physical space in the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex at UTM. Both these spaces consume resources and participate in the occupation of Indigenous lands.
Having been taught by the land acknowledgement practices of Marisa Elena Duarte, Max Liboiron, and the organizers of the 2021 meeting of the Society of the Social Study of Science (4S) whose theme was Good Relations, we situate ourselves within these lands and extractive practices and invite you to do the same:
This website is hosted by GreenGeeks, and our data runs through its server facilities in either Montreal or Toronto. GreenGeeks partners with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to purchase 3X the amount of energy it uses in renewable energy credits, which are fed back into the electricity grid. It also plants a tree for each new account.
While this mitigates the energy impact of our modest computing needs, this website still contributing to the 1% of global electricity demand accounted for by computing and IT. While the carbon footprint of data has proved to be more manageable than some estimates anticipated, server farms still require considerable natural resources. For example, in 2019, Google extracted 2.3 billion gallons of water for data centers in only three US states. And even the most eco-conscious server farms occupy massive areas of land. While the largest server farm in the US is run entirely on renewable energy, it occupies 2,000 acres of the traditional land of the Numu (Northern Paiute) people. These server farms (and, in all likelihood, the one hosting this website) are thus part of an ongoing extractive project of settler colonialism.
UTM occupies Treaty 14 land and the territory of the Mississauga of the Credit. This land has also been, and remains, home to Anishinabek, Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee and Ojibway/Chippewa peoples and hosts diverse communities of Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit scholars, artists, and activists from across Turtle Island, including badass feminist scholars here at UTM, like Kristin Bos, Robin Grey and Yvonne Sherwood. This region along the Great Lakes has also long been governed by the Dish with One Spoon wampum belt covenant created between the Haudenausonee and Anishinabek people to ensure mutual care for the land and sustenance of those who come through it. In addition to non-Indigenous settlers who have come by choice, Mississauga is home to many diasporic communities who have found there way here through coercion and force, including the violent displacements of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the intentured servitude of Chinese laborers exploited to build the trans canada railway, itself a key infrastructure of settler colonialism and extractive capitalism.
TWIG benefits from these extractive arrangements, while simultaneously working to manifest less- or non-extractive modes of research and to redistribute resources in more just ways. Our praxis requires thinking about hospitality and grappling with how to be a good guest, especially if uninvited, while considering the multiple forms of accountability and obligation that hail each of us, based on our own historic, geographic, and biographic itineraries.
Our understanding of hospitality is also informed by principles of disability justice, which recognizes growing access as a relational, collective, and ongoing practice. One thing this means is asking each other “what do you need to flourish in a space?” (a pedagogical provocation offered by Alison Kafer) and feeling out ways to make that space.
Who are you?
The research kitchen is run by Zoë H Wool, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto. You can find the other folks who support and pass through the kitchen in our Friends of the Kichen page. This website was created by Jessica Caporusso.
What is a research kitchen?
The ‘research kitchen’ is conceived in explicit distinction from the lab. It is an experimental feminist research space for speculating about and manifesting practices of convivial scholarship that are designed to be generative and even nourishing for all involved. As a feminist space, the research kitchen attends as much to how things are done as to any outcomes or content. In addition to hosting collaborative research projects on the themes of toxicity, waste, and infrastructure, the kitchen will host salons, co-writing sessions, workshops, and other events. Maybe you’ll make a research kitchen that will do other things. If you do, please cite us and also let us know.
Indebted to feminist and indigenous STS, as well as queer and Black feminist organizing and creative models that stage non-innocent reclamations of the kitchen as a feminist space, TWIG is also formed also in relation to principles of disability justice. This means it aims to build models of scholarship that are sustainable and nourishing, rather than exhausting. This latter commitment entails pacing TWIG’s growth which means we remain a work in progress.
Why is it called a kitchen?
TWIG is kind of like a lab. But at a time when many in the humanities and ‘soft’ social sciences have found new legitimacy and legibility within academic institutions by creating labs and creatively coopting lab traditions of objectivist knowledge, we have decided to explicitly mark our space as feminist by claiming kinship with the kitchen. Against the objectivist project of total knowledge, the kitchen stakes a claim to situated and partial knowledge. The kitchen leans away from the standardization and replicability of scientific protocols, and leans toward the historically, socioculturally, and biographically informed alchemy of cooking things up.
The kitchen is also a reference to the kind of creative and nourishing trouble that travels under the banner of kitchen table activism. TWIG hopes to provide something of the spirit of the kitchen table from its compromised situation within a conventional academic institution.
But we are under no illusions. The kitchen has also been a space of drugergy, and of raced, classed, and gendered oppression. We acknowledge this as part of our non-innocent legacy. In fact, “research kitchen” is in part an ironic nod to the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University (the university where Zoë Wool was previously a professor), a space where innovation for the greater good is infused with the free wheeling enthusiasm-without-accountability that characterizes speculative technology capitalism.
Finally, to claim kitchen is also to remind us that there are non-lab models and genres for the institutional research spaces we create, like The Ethnography Studio run by Andrea Baillestero, which draws from design thinking.
Is this a lab?
There are a lot of overlaps between a lab and a kitchen, but we claim kitchen for many reasons:
While, like a lab, we are host to collective research projects headed by TWIG founder and director, Professor Zoë Wool, we will also host a range of open and closed events and can dovetail to support work happening elsewhere.
Where labs tend to have a set team, the kitchen plans to have one or two core graduate student RAs but overall it will not be constituted by a team. People will pass through projects and events as their capacity and desire allows.
The legitimacy of ‘the lab’ comes from its roots in objectivist sciences which grow out of masculinist and colonial projects of discovery, mastery, and total knowledge. The kitchen is imagined as an alternative to this. Of course, some labs explicitly refuse such histories of material and epistemological conquest, and imagine labs otherwise, like:
The line in our logo is based on a series of time-motion studies conducted by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for the design of a kitchen that would be installed in a new social housing project built in Frankfurt in the mid-1920s.
Schütte-Lihotzky was an Austrian communist, antifasicst, and architect who designed “social architecture” to improve the conditions of the working class. The Frankfurt Kitchen was based on train car kitchens, and designed to be easy and inexpensive to build and efficient to use, so that the women who cooked in it could be liberated for other pursuits. To design the kitchen, Schütte-Lihotzky’s team studied the way women moved through kitchens and created a promotional video to explain the improvements in efficiency the Frankfurt Kitchen offered. The film included an animated rendering of a line showing how women moved through each kitchen when preparing a meal. The TWIG logo is a stylized version of the line showing the inefficient movement of women in the old kitchen. The Frankfurt Kitchen was installed in thousands of social housing units, where women largely did not use it as intended, despite, or perhaps because of, its highly rationalized design. Perhaps this is because Schütte-Lihotzky’s kitchen imagined the space as a kind of office or factory, and she reflected that she’d “never managed a household, or cooked, or had any experience in the kitchen whatsoever” when she designed it. She also wrote that her design of the kitchen “fit with the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas of the time that a woman essentially worked at home in the kitchen, so of course a woman architect would know best what is important for cooking.” TWIG claims the ambivalence of this legacy and the complexity of the kitchen and its labor exemplified in the Frankfurt Kitchen.