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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

McFarlane, C, Desai, R. & Graham, S. Informal Urban Sanitation: Everyday Life, Comparison and Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 2014;104:989-1011.

Author(s) from Durham


The global sanitation crisis is rapidly urbanizing, but how is sanitation produced and sustained in informal settlements? While there are data available on aggregate statistics, relatively little is known about how sanitation is created, maintained, threatened, and contested within informal settlements. Drawing on an ethnography of two very different informal settlements in Mumbai, this study identifies key ways in which informal sanitation is produced, rendered vulnerable, and politicized. In particular, four informal urban sanitation processes are examined: patronage, self-managed processes, solidarity and exclusion, and open defecation. The article also considers the implications for a research agenda around informal urban sanitation, emphasizing in particular the potential of a comparative approach, and examines the possibilities for better sanitation conditions in Mumbai and beyond.

Department of Geography