Sanitation and Differentiation in Urban China (2012 – 2013)

Defecation in rapidly transforming cities may serve as an axis, linking the individual and the social, private perceptions and public policy, as well as other connected yet seemingly remote dimensions of urban life. This project contributes to a better understanding of one of the most pertaining issues for growing and developing cities and their existing and future residents: appropriate urban sanitation. Findings contribute directly to knowledge in human geography, urban anthropology and social/environmental psychology; they inform policy-makers and practitioners and advance efforts toward sustainable urban development.

Principal Investigator: Deljana Iossifova

Funding: University of Manchester (Research Stimulation Fund)

In China, alongside significant economic growth over the past three decades, municipalities are faced with sanitation challenges brought about by drastically expanding urban populations: between 1990 and 2008, the percentage of urban residents defecating in the open has grown from 3% to 6%.

Excretion-related cognition, perception and behaviour are important for the mental and physical health of individuals; for processes of inclusion or exclusion; and for the transformation of the built environment under conditions of depleting resources and climate change. This study informs efforts to provide appropriate and sustainable sanitation management systems for current and future urban residents by answering two main questions: What are prevailing excretion-related attitudes among different groups in the context of contemporary, sociospatially fragmented, Shanghai? And how do local socio-cultural norms interact with wider political, physical and environmental systems?

Major outputs:

Iossifova, D. (2015) Everyday Practices of Sanitation under Uneven Urban Development in Contemporary Shanghai. Environment and Urbanization 36 (2), 541-554.

Iossifova, D. (2014). Of Poo and People: sanitation and differentiation in urban China. In Our World. Tokyo: United Nations University. Available here:


Posts | January 7, 2013 1:09 pm