— Michael Guggenheim


Michael Guggenheim, Bernd Kräftner, Judith Kröll

Don’t leave the kitchen. A Recipe for Incubations. Unpublished Article. (pdf)

(If you wish to publish it, please get in contact with us)

Abstract: In this paper we present a recipe for cultural interventions as a stew. It illustrates an approach we have developed in several research and exhibition projects that we call “incubation“. An incubation is a socio-technical device that forms new objects and interactions produced under situational, social and time-based pressure via the use of knowledge, interactions and objects.

An incubation consists of a range of ingredients – media, methods, theories – mixed together to both describe and intervene in a given situation. It challenges the opposition of action versus description, and political versus scientific, as limited. Because an incubation is not a process of debunking but of assembly, any method is always supposed to represent, intervene and transform. We use several examples to illustrate our argument, among them a long-term study with vegetative state patients, an exhibition project with researchers that are asylum seekers, a betting office for genetically doped mice and a laboratory to measure ideas of prevention.

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Here is a blogpost over at CSISP blog for a tactical picnic, as part of the “engaging tactics” conference at Goldsmiths Department of Sociology in collaboration with the British Sociological Association and Goldsmiths’ Methods Lab in April 30th – May 1st, 2012, prepared together with Christian von Wissel, with contributions by the conference participants.

The aim of the conference was “to explore social sciences’ ways of engaging with the social world. The event seeks to explore how to (re)imagine the ‘tactics’ for producing and sharing social knowledge, focusing on the construction and upholding of meaningful and confiding relationships with both research participants and ‘emerging publics’.”

Our task: Create a lunch for the conference. Constraints: No money to pay cooks and little time to prepare and eat.

Our idea: Turn each talk into a tactic for buying, preparing, assembling and eating and have each presenter at the conference prepare one dish.


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Comments on a Menu for the Workshop “Emotions on a Plate”

Held at Collegium Helveticum, 21. March 2007. (Together with Florian Keller).

A description of a menu that renders the theme “emotions and culture” edible, from childhood memories to cultural variations and the receptors that make memories real.

Appeared in: Johannes Fehr, Gerd Folkers (Hg.) Gefühle zeigen. Manifestationsformen emotionaler Prozesse. Edition Collegium Helveticum, Band 5, 2009.

Further theorized in the article:

The Proof Is in the Pudding. On ‘Truth to Materials’ in the Sociology of
Translations, Followed by an Attempt to Improve It.

STI-Studies, Special Issue on “The Five Senses of the Sciences”.

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A description of a cooking-workshop that deals with the problem of collectively inventing a menu from a fixed set of accidental ingredients. Invented to teach cooking without recipe books. Invented to make people invent new dishes. Invented to prove that everybody can cook.

Great graphic design by Katya Bonnenfant.
Originally published in Yearbook Nr. 8 of Schloss Solitude, 2006, where several workshops were held. Thank you to the kitchen staff of Solitude who let us use their kitchen!


These are the rules, try it with your friends and report back, please!

1. The cooking workshop is taking place once a week.
2. Each week, up to six cooks enrol for the workshop.
No previous knowledge is required.
3. The cooks meet some days in advance to set up a list of ingredients.
4. Each cook can add as many items to the list of ingredients as he or
she likes.
5. The list of ingredients is assembled without knowledge of the
final menu and no consideration of good fit of the ingredients.
6. At the day the workshop is held, one of the cooks buys all the
ingredients on the list.
7. Up to six guests enrol for the dinner.
8. At 6 pm the cooks meet.
9. Each cook invents a menu which comprises all the ingredients.
10. Each cook presents his menu to the other cooks.
11. All the cooks together compose a new menu from the individual
12. No recipes are used.
13. The final menu is cooked by all the cooks together.
14. Dinner is served at 8.30pm.

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A text in German on the problem of cooking for scientists (includes some recipes that scientists might love),
also deals with the problem of mothers cooking. A report on our work as cooks for various workshops and symposia at Collegium zerodarkthirty-movie.com Helveticum, trying to make sense of our role conflicts as lowly cooks and at the same time scientific staff at a prestigious scientific institution.

Written together with Florian Keller,

originally appeared in: Anja Eichelberg / Helga Nowotny (Hrsg.), Jahrbuch 2002 des Collegium Helveticum der ETH Zürich, Zürich: vdf, S. 337-347

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A Universal History of the World with regard to Cooking, Eating etc.
A series of short texts in German  that tell the story of the universe, life Moneygram online itself, humans, the social, culture, art, the individual
in short: everything you always wanted to know from the viewpoint of food and cooking.
Texts were selected and edited together with Florian Keller and Luc Georgi,

originally appeared in: Matthias Michel (Hrsg.), Fakt und Fiktion 0.7. Narrativität und Wissenschaft, Zürich: Chronos.

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A description (in German) of the first European cooking workshop,
held at Collegium Helveticum in 2002, organised together with Florian Keller and Günter Küppers. Includes detailed experimental setup, recipes and wide-ranging conclusions about sensory experiences in dark rooms.
appeared in: Helga Nowotny (Hrsg.), Jahrbuch 2002 des Collegium Helveticum der ETH Zürich, Zürich: vdf.

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In : STI-Studies, Special Issue on “The Five Senses of the Sciences”, Vol. 7, 2011, No. 1, pp. 65-86


What could it mean to use cooking as a medium or translation device for sociology? Why is the use of media other than writing so unusual in sociology, but not in other sciences? The sociology of translation has made the claim that sociology should stay true to its object. Rather than jumping into abstractions, sociology should translate its object step by step. I show, that if this holds, then the sociology of translation fails its own claim to what I call “truth to materials”, because in its practice it engages in jumps in media from objects, such as food, image or body, to text. Instead, I propose to take the issue of truth to materials more serious by engaging, as other sciences, more directly with the senses. What prevents the sociology of translation from doing so is a belief in mechanical objectivity that excludes all other forms of translation except texts. For the case of taste, this suggests to engage in cooking. In the second part of the text I provide an attempt to create such more nuanced translations in the form of a buffet that we cooked as comment to a symposium. Some of the issues that were discussed with the help of the buffet were new kitchen technologies, the relationship between the visual and the olfactory, and the relationship between knowledge and taste.

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