The dichotomous world of sanitation management: ‘Matter out of place’ in urban India

Subramanian, Saravanan
Externe Publikationen (2024)

in: Applied Geography 165, article 103228


The paper examines the dichotomous world of sanitation management in Coimbatore, India. Sanitation management is a process of safely managing and disposing human excreta and wastewater. As it flows from the private sphere to the public, many actors have social aspirations and discriminate according to class, thus maintaining a dichotomous world – the purity (clean, orderly, simple, and aesthetically appealing) and the pollution (filthy, dirty, poor, complex) – in their everyday struggle to manage. The paper examines the micro-politics of actors using the lens of 'purity and pollution' as they engage in managing sanitation in Coimbatore. It combines semi-structured, and in-depth interviews with sanitation workers, government officials and private companies. The paper reveals that government and international agencies take a narrow view of sanitation management, embeds its approach on the stigmatic practice, and adopts a backdoor form of governance in the city. The lens of purity and pollution reveals structurally distinct, mutually reinforcing, and dynamic approaches by actors to keep sanitation a ‘matter out of place’ and limit opportunities to professionalize the workers. It calls for an inclusive sanitation governance that do not separate between the imported sanitation fixtures and the socially embedded practices, rather contextualises sanitation management practices.

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