Do Flush Toilets Have Politics?
Gonçalo Santos - Assistant Professor, Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong
According to the United Nations, by 2025, 1.9 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under water stress conditions. In this talk, Santos argues that one of the best ways to capture the making of contemporary water shortage anxieties is to explore the global history of the modern flush toilet and the hydraulic system of waste disposal supporting its operation. Drawing on historical and ethnographic research on the spread of the flush toilet in rural South China, this paper calls for the need to consider alternatives to the remarkably wasteful system of human waste management locked-in to our built environments.
Gonçalo D. Santos joined the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences in October 2013. He was an LSE Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (2007-2011) and a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale (2011-2013). He studied Anthropology at the London School of Economics and at the ISCTE – Lisbon University Institute in Portugal. His PhD dissertation focused on social change and intimate relations in rural South China and was based on long-term fieldwork in a lineage-village in Northern Guangdong in the early 2000s.
Dr. Santos’ main area of geographical expertise is China, but he has also conducted comparative field research in Southeast Asia. His research interests include kinship, gender, and intimacy; agriculture, development and capitalist transformations; charity, ethics and popular religion. He is the author of many refereed journal articles and book chapters on these various topics and is the co-editor of the volume Chinese Kinship (Routledge 2009). He is currently completing an edited volume on Chinese family and gender relations (with Stevan Harrell), a special issue on love, marriage, and intimacy in China and India (with Henrike Donner), and a monograph on technology, kinship, and intimacy in contemporary rural China. He is particularly interested in science and technology studies, and plans to develop a new research project on flush toilets and hygienic modernity in contemporary China.