Sanitation is fundamental to urban public life and health. We need Sanitation for All.
In an age of pandemics the relationship between the health of the city and good sanitation has never been more important. Waste in the City is a call to action on one of modern urban life’s most neglected issues: sanitation infrastructure. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the devastating consequences of unequal access to sanitation in cities across the globe. At this critical moment in global public health, Colin McFarlane makes the urgent case for Sanitation for All.
The book outlines the worldwide sanitation crisis and offers a vision for a renewed, equitable investment in sanitation that democratises and socialises the modern city. Adopting Henri Lefebvre’s concept of ‘the right to the city’, it uses the notion of ‘citylife’ to reframe the discourse on sanitation from a narrowly-defined policy discussion to a question of democratic right to public life and health. In doing so, the book shows that sanitation is an urbanizing force whose importance extends beyond hygiene to the very foundation of urban social life.
About the Author
Colin McFarlane is a Professor of Geography at the University of Durham. His research focuses mainly on the global sanitation crisis in cities across the world. He’s previously written and co-authored three books on sanitation and urban life.
"In this brilliant book bristling with ideas and evidence from around the Global South, Colin McFarlane maps the world's sanitation crisis as well as a way out of it through a manifesto of rights to the city that connects up vernacular strategies of making infrastructure, a public right to wellbeing, and city efforts to improve systems. The book is full of hope and possibility without ever losing sight of the sanitation catastrophe we face.'" —Ash Amin, Emeritus 1931 Chair of Geography, Cambridge University
"Interesting, insightful, sometimes surprising, beautifully written, challenges us to look at sanitation (and lack of it) in new ways." —David Satterthwaite, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
"In this immensely well written and accessible book, Colin McFarlane draws on over two decades of his research on sanitation, setting out his argument as to why access to toilets is fundamental not only to reducing poverty and inequality but also to what he refers to as citylife, or the right to a liveable urban life. His superb command of his subject starts with the fleshy, messy feminist understanding of sanitation as a bodily act and of the millions of people living through the crisis of sanitation, at the centre of which lies the social reproductive labour of women and girls. From people he moves comprehensively across sanitation's material infrastructures (the 'things' of sanitation) and lives (the urban ecologies of human and non-human animals and microbes and the politics of the body), to protest (human waste is political!) and allocation (who gets what sanitation resources, where). It is this networked view of sanitation, as far more than a simple technical or policy issue, that underpins the democratic right to citylife. This is a brilliantly incisive book, setting a global agenda for all of us who care about cities, poverty and inequality. For those urban researchers and activists for whom the urban sanitation crisis is not yet on that agenda it will be after reading this book." —Linda Peake, Director, The City Institute, York University, Toronto
"Marks the culmination of his path-breaking research on the global sanitation crisis. Waste and the City is both a sober assessment of the scale of the challenge and also an affirmation of multiple social and political possibilities to create better urban worlds." —Matthew Gandy, Professor of Geography, University of Cambridge
"With both a conceptually wide-ranging lens and empirical precision, Colin McFarlane show how and why sanitation lies at the heart of contemporary urban inequalities, injustices, and ecologies. Drawing on cases from both rich and poor countries alike, this book makes clear that how societies understand, address, or ignore such daily necessities as sewage and the provision of toilets says a lot about whose lives matter. Beyond highlighting the unspoken gender and class biases in the provision of sanitation, the focus on new environmental and infrastructural urgencies set in motion by climate change makes this book particularly timely." —Diane E. Davis, Harvard University Graduate School of Design