Coprology and Caste: The Status of Sweerage in Ahmedabad, India

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This paper traces the relationship between the development of Ahmedabad’s sewerage system and the caste structure, examining how sanitation technology threatened caste politics, as well as how the caste system modified the way sewers were used and maintained. It looks at how sewers came to be understood as markers of legitimacy, sophistication, and moral citizenship through the notion of the “civic sense”, and how that notion changed over time. Focusing on the evolving role of Bhangis – Untouchable sweepers turned sewermen – , it looks at the corporeal, political, and economic impact that sewers have had upon them. While there is an existing body of literature that deals with Bhangis and the practice of manual scavenging, little attention has been paid to the evolution of manual scavenging into equally oppressive sewer cleaning practices. By showing how a technology with humane intents was modified to support casteism, this paper posits that sewerage was not a solution to manual scavenging, and that it is only by understanding the tenacity of social structures that technological interventions can be successfully staged.

Last modified
  • 01/03/2019
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  • 12-002
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