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The power of shit: reflections on CLTS in Nepal

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A sign in Nepal shows a clear message against open defecation

‘Shit’ is a highly sensitive, almost taboo topic across all cultures. Circumventing this sensitivity has contributed to the failure of many programmes aiming to prevent the practice of Open Defecation (OD). The Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach is, however, more successful. This article asserts that this can be attributed to the emphasis placed on the ‘power of shit’ and more significantly the disciplinary action of the ‘disgust’ it elicits. To reflect on the mechanics at work in CLTS, data gathered during a visit to Nepal, which served as a case study, as well as various theories of disgust are used. The theories presented in this paper illustrate the contradictory nature of disgust, and address both the tension and the consensus between the various explanations. This reflection is based on the premise that the power inherent in disgust is a result of the web that exists to connect its cognitive, visceral and social aspects. CLTS has realized this and is capturing this power as a strategy to discourage and prevent the practice of OD and eventually reduce morbidity and mortality.

Download the article by Fiona Budge, first published in Medische Antropologie 24 (2) 2012  

Date: 4 March 2013