Kampala's shitscape: exploring urbanity and sanitation in Uganda
Terreni Brown, Stephanie Elizabeth
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In this thesis, I explore the collective excrement apparatus of Kampala, or the “shitscape”. I consider the diverse ways that the city’s inhabitants utilise different materials to manage their daily defecation, from flush toilets and latrines to plastic bags, septic tanks, and wastewater channels. In doing so, I unravel the historical and contemporary construction of toileting as a critical component of the modern city in the global south, and the everyday role of excrement in the inclusion and exclusion of Kampala’s inhabitants. The shitscape therefore invites a discussion of how the city’s sanitation infrastructures are thought about and implemented in a way that both reflects and reinforces the socio-economic disparities of its residents. The thesis begins with an historical analysis of how the city was shaped by colonialism and how this affects the contemporary shitscape in terms of ideas about urbanity, modernity, and hygiene, and then analyses how the material and symbolic groundwork of the colonial period is extended into the planning and living of today’s city. Tracing the city’s main wastewater channel through affluent areas and informal settlements of central Kampala, I use ethnographic and qualitative methods to understand the everyday toileting materialities and performances, and its role in the ways in which the city is read, perceived, and lived by its inhabitants. The study’s primary theoretical contribution is to contribute to Lefebvre’s theories about the production of urban space by bringing it into conversation with postcolonial and feminist literatures that knit together bodily function and material infrastructure. This everyday look at the how the city’s shitscape operates ultimately offers ways to challenge prevailing notions of urbanity, and prompts thinking about alternative possibilities for how city life is conceptualised.