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Changing ideas of bodily cleanliness

Quitzau, Maj-Britt (2004) Changing ideas of bodily cleanliness. Paper at: 6th International Summer Academy on Technology Studies. Urban Infrastructure in Transition: What can we learn from history?, Deutschlandsberg, Austria, July 11-17 2004.

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Document available online at: http://www.ifz.tugraz.at/index_en.php/article/articleview/658/1/30/


The modern bathroom reflects Western ideas on the handling of bodily wastes, and consequently ideas of cleanliness. Taking a historical study as the point of departure, the purpose of this paper is to understand the extent to which the idea of cleanliness influences the possibility of converting the water closet to a more sustainable technology. An examination of historical changes demonstrates that our present ideas on cleanliness are distinct in their own way. It also demonstrates that our present ideas of cleanliness represent a drawing together of several loose ends, development towards which having been incoherent. Great variation has been apparent in practices surrounding, and the social importance of, cleanliness. People have lived in different ways and have had different ideas about how to behave. The Roman culture thought of bathing and relieving oneself as social duties. In the Middle Ages, uncleanliness ruled the day as people had a very natural and relaxed attitude to bodily waste. Following the urbanisation process, cleanliness was thought of as a step towards progress and a sanitational cure for epidemics in the cities. In more recent times, cleanliness became a project of orderliness and became institutionalised in society. The water closet is inextricably linked with our present ideas of cleanliness. This could impede a future conversion of the water closet, these ideas in several ways conflicting with the more sustainable toilet system. Nevertheless, it is also a point of this paper to illustrate that our present ideas of cleanliness are not self-evident. On the contrary, our ideas are contextually bound and might thus change, for instance, due to a strengthening of e.g. the environmental discourse.

EPrint Type:Conference paper, poster, etc.
Type of presentation:Paper
Keywords:transition, cleanliness, infrastructure, history
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Research affiliation: Denmark > SOAR - Research School for Organic Agriculture and Food Systems
Related Links:http://www.ifz.tugraz.at/index_en.php/article/articleview/33/1/30
Deposited By: Quitzau, MSc. Maj-Britt
ID Code:3298
Deposited On:30 Sep 2004
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:29
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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