‘Citizenship and belonging’ has been a fascinating yet frustrating assignment and I thought it might be interesting, and instructive for myself, to write about the ideas that didn’t make it, but that were valuable points along the way.
Having rethought an earlier idea that had been binned (the original ‘1st idea’) I came up with another that I thought might successfully tackle my chosen area of citizenship, ‘Multicultural Citizenship and Food’. The idea was less about food than representations of food that denote ideas of nationhood.
I began, what was to prove a short-lived investigation, by approaching it from a historical perspective. One image (below) immediately came to mind; William Pitt the Younger (British Prime Minister 1783 – 1801 and 1804 – 1806) dividing up the world with Napoleon, the world represented by the plum pudding.
The idea was to identify a few images and show them to different target groups. Using picture elicitation I intended to initiate a discourse on identity and thereby gain an understanding of where the participants situate themselves within a multicultural society. I planned to approach Asian, Caribbean and West African community groups as they come from, or claim hereditary from, former British colonies. A group composed mainly of white British people (perhaps an OAP lunch group) and a group with no cultural links to Britain or the images presented.
However, it was suggested that rather than bringing in pictures to discuss, I ask participants to bring an item of food that they identify with, thereby levelling the balance of power between researcher and research subject. It was at this point that I began to move away from the idea of using pictures as a means to elicit notions of identity. My main concern was that the images I had found would take sophisticated reading and could easily be misinterpreted, or not interpreted at all.
I felt something was missing from the equation. If I were to ask the participants to bring a food item to the discussion, why not ask them to cook a dish? After all, food is sensory. This though immediately led me to think about Health & Safety. Having arranged to work with vulnerable groups before (the elderly being one) I knew how long it could take to arrange a meeting and gain access. I thought that if cooking were added to the mix it would take even longer to arrange, time I didn’t have and so rather than risk wasting time on lengthy negotiations, which may have yielded nothing, I decided to change tack, again.