Workshop 1 : Urban ideals and Sanitation Experiences : toward a new research agenda  

Workshop 1 : Urban ideals and Sanitation Experiences : 

toward a new research agenda



  • Rémi de Bercegol

Geographer – Urbanist (CNRS, PRODIG, Paris)

Invited tutors:

  • Nathalie Jean-Baptiste

Geographer – Urbanist (Ardhi University, Dar Es Salaam; Technical University of Darmstadt)

  • Shubaghato Dasgupta

Economist (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Arkaja Singh

Lawyer (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Anju Diwedi

Anthropologist (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Ambarish Karunanith Ambar

Engineer (Sci-Fi team, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

  • Chloé Leclerc

Economist – Statistician (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Lyon)



After declaring 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation, the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized in 2010 access to drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Sanitation is thus of growing interest to policy makers and economists and is an expending research field. To understand the complexity of sanitation challenges, social scientists usually use different type of data, which requires the mobilization of specific knowledge.

The objective of this panel is to characterize the specificities of sanitation experiences in towns and cities of the global South. It aims at developing a research agenda for analysing critically the strategies currently in place to universalize the service to all, and for apprehending the emergence of alternative models, which could also contribute to this universalization.

For this, relying on examples taken from Africa and Asia with a focus on India, we will re-read the history of sanitation models, from the western sanitary ideal of the XIX century to its segregated post-colonial effects. We will examine the cultural aspects of the taboos surrounding the sectors to explain its relegation and its societal consequences. We will critically look at centralized sanitation policies, within a broader governance framework to explain its successes and failures, and the existence of alternatives offers. Non-state actors are indeed proposing solutions to households to compensate the absence of public service, whether they be sellers of toilets, sanitary block managers or pit service providers. We will examine the reinforcement of these private and civil experiences, often informal but far from being unorganized. This will lead us to question a potential paradigm shift from a model based on conventional centralized sewer lines, towards others solutions that can be decentralized or off-grid solutions, sometimes constructed on low-cost technologies and mostly based on market logics.

What are these systems and why are they being looked at a potential solution to expand sanitation services? Who are these non-state actors implementing them? Where, and how, are they involved in the urban sanitation market? To what extent do their offers adapt to the economic conditions of households and urban dynamics in developing cities? More generally, what are the strengths and limitations of this non-public approaches? How do these initiatives contribute to the renewal of public sanitation policies?

By questioning the strengths and limitations of these systems, we wish to understand not only their contribution but also their political meaning for the expansion of a heterogeneous right to sanitation for all in an unequal city. In a final stage, we will develop a research agenda for sanitation aiming at a better articulation between public action, private sector and civil experiences. At the end of the course the students will have understood what still needs to be done in this field, as well as the limitations of survey data to study these questions and how to overcome them.

The course will combine interactive lecture sessions and tutorials over the three days. In the lecture sessions students will be exposed to the research frontier in the field of social and geographical mobility.


Centre for Policy Research (Sci-Fi Team), Technical University of Darmstadt, University of Kisumu, Ardhi University, Ecole Normale Supérieure (Lyon), Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (Prodig et Géographie-Cités)


Workshop 1 Schedule 

9:00-9:30 Opening speech                                                                                                                                   

Introduction and objectives of the workshop

Presentation of participants

9:30-11:00 Urban Ideals and Sanitation experiences: a paradigm shift?                                            
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:30 Swachh Bharat Abiyan: from taboo to totem emblem                                                        
12:30-14:00 Lunch                                                                                  
14:00-15:30 Understanding the technicality issues of sanitation
15:40-15:45 Coffee Break
15:45-17:00 Film: in deep shit (36 minutes) and discussion on workers rights
9:00-10:30 An anthropology of toilets
10:30-10:45 Coffee break
10:45-12:30 An historical perspective on water discrimination in Nairobi, Kenya      
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:00 Decrypting Census Data on Sanitation
15:00-15:15 Coffee Break
15:15-17:00 Use of cartography to map inequality
9:00-11:00 Lecture 4 –A multiscale analysis of floods in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:30 Law and practice : right to sanitation and institutional framework in India
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-18:00 Toward a research agenda: Preparation of the project by participants
9:00-11:00 Group work
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:30 Group work
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Group work
15:40-15:45 Coffee Break
15:45-18:00 Group work restitution of project

Discussion of the results and the workshops



Readings and online resources:  
To be added



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