|Country||HF Title/ date|
|Netherlands||A Sense of Home: A Seat at the Table, Amsterdam 3rd July 2020|
Our Hybrid Forum, as the title suggests, was about negotiating the conceptualisation of one of our central research themes, “A Sense of Home”, in combination with that of the provocation “A Seat at the Table”. The Netherlands’ Hybrid Forum was conducted with some key members of our Associate Partner “We Are Here”. As the members of this organisation and activist community are asylum seekers and ‘undocumented’ refugees in especially precarious positions, we decided that the balancing of these two core themes was potentially quite poignant and generative for this forum. A Sense of Home was chosen because of its double articulation of both on the one hand, the sensory and affective qualities of home attached to culinary acts and gastronomic experiences; and on the other hand, the complex and elusive nature of home for those forced to flee their ‘place of origin’ due to war, famine, and additional factors caused by legal, political and economic deprivation. A Seat at the Table was likewise chosen for its doubled meaning, at the surface level, the Hybrid Forum was to be conducted as an extended lunch, where both researchers and participants cooked for and dined with one another, and a more deep and philosophical level we would negotiate the notion of access/representation, and the lack thereof, in political, media and public arenas, for those far too often robbed of a voice and opportunity to take literal seats at tables of power that debate and determine significant components of their lives. An important contextual addition to the above is that our choice of A Sense of Home, was also inspired by a poem written by Khalid Jone, the spokesperson of We Are Here, our associate partner. Jone came to the Netherlands in 2002 seeking asylum from war after fleeing the province of Darfur in western Sudan. We were motivated by the expressive spirit of Jone’s poem, and as the opening lines of his poem suggests, “What is home? The most simple questions always raise difficult answers?”.
Description of the hybrid forum
Beyond the aforementioned overall thematic focus, we also decided out of necessity to produce quite a creative and unique event for our Hybrid Forum. In the spirit of situated experimentation, the Netherlands team flipped the concept of the Hybrid Forum on its head. The Hybrid forum is a place where,
all participants can share their experiences, knowledge and expertise as a group – and later with a public audience – to be able to explore together a topic of common interest. The goal of hybrid forums is, in essence, to build a better world together. When we participate in a hybrid forum it is not the point to defend an idea, a particular perspective or a personal interest, but to identify and support collective interests.
While we share and celebrate the sentiment of these goals, we were working predominately in the field with our partners We Are Here, an activist organisation fighting for the rights of undocumented migrants in the Netherlands. Without a residence permit or any domestic legal recognition, their members are denied access to work and social services such as healthcare and housing. We Are Here do not function as a part of the Netherlands state, or receive any governmental support. They have no structure, management, financial model or private partners. They are a precarious organisation of resistance, seeking for recognition, to create public debate, to protest the government’s treatment of refugees and ultimately for residency. The members of We Are Here are stripped of their legal status but also of recognition of their expertise. They have no public outlet to exhibit their skills, capacities or abundant possible contributions to Dutch society. Beyond that, their privacy and anonymity is paramount as even speaking out in public or participating in public debate such as a Hybrid Forum is a threat to the outcome of their asylum applications or could bring about their deportation or criminal charges. Therefore instead of inviting multiple experts from the field to discuss a controversial or thematic issue together, we thought we would fully respect both the expertise and precarity of our research participants/associate partners, and endeavour to find out from them directly how they conceptualise and philosophise some of the issues we ourselves are researching.
We held our Hybrid Forum with six members of the We Are Here organisation, all of whom except their spokesperson Khalid Jone wish to remain anonymous. We held this event in the common cooking and eating area of one member´s apartment building. We wanted our Hybrid Forum to be experimental in theme and structure, but also in aesthetic approach. To be consistent with our creative research, we created a forum that was a sensory experience in itself and decided to capture this event through sensory means. Our Hybrid Forum consisted of meeting one another to discuss the approach and the delicate matters related to privacy and anonymity, then cooking and preparing a table together and finally eating, drinking and talking together. All of this was also captured video recording, audio recording, and through thick description notes by us, the researchers.
We, the researchers, did not take part in the forum, nor offered our expertise on these conceptual discussions, but were there mainly to record the conversation, prompt the discussion with theme cards and to delve a little deeper with spontaneous and organic questions.
Part 1: Expert Part
10.00 – Meeting at Hybrid Forum Location in Amsterdam
11.00 – Cooking and Preparation of Shared Meal
12.00 – Eating Together
12.30 – Forum Discussions Began
15.30 – Forum Discussions Ended
16.00 – Coffee and Further Discussion about the FOOD2GATHER Project
Six members of We Are Here.
One of whom was Khalid Jone, and the other 5 participants shall remain anonymous here.
Who was leading
Rick Dolphijn – Mainly led the conceptual discussion of the Forum
Nick Polson – Mainly filmed and led the audio-visual recording of the Forum
The Hybrid Forum was immensely enriching and was a fantastic way to connect deeper with our Associate Partners on a personal level, using both the delicious food present and the food practices/cultures/experiences we discussed as a moderating sensory object and entry point to personal conversations that ranged from the joyous, the traumatic and the quotidian. Of course we missed the opportunity to share these conversations in a public forum but this event has led to two ideas for the pilot programme and will be central material for our film production for the project. All of which will then allow the public to take part in this discussion albeit in a different way than is intended from the Hybrid Forum itself.