Tuesday, June 01, 2004
[Via Political Theory Daily] I've always found that one of the most problematic things for me in studying political theory is getting caught up in ongoing debates that most people would think of as completely irrelevant to their everyday political experiences. Not just most people - most intellectually aware, politically active people. What does funding a taste for champagne and caviar have to do with equality movements in the real world? And why should we want to talk about shit in public?
The problem is that such things really are interesting in many ways, and have more impact on the way we view ourselves in society than some people realise. But it's often hard to argue for it as an area of study, hard to say what these things will affect. The writer of this article, Hawkins Gay, seems aware of this to some extent, while at the same time glorying in the use of phrases like 'when shit happens' and 'publics don't shit'.
Gay uses his discussion to show how the private waste we keep to ourselves compromises public campaigns for ecologically aware citizenship (in Bondi, where keeping the seas clean doesn't extend to changing our own toilet-going habits), as well as how shit can become a campaign issue for the demarcation of the private self (in Mumbai, where privation means there usually isn't much room for liberal privacy discussions). Beyond this, it's certainly interesting to note, as he does, how we feel more exposed when our litter overturns in the street than when the sewers overflow, simply because the one we keep to ourselves while the other we've projected into the public realm, and publics really don't shit.
But, even if this discussion does have relevance to our lives and intellectual interest in terms of how we view some of the most personal aspects of ourselves, it's unlikely shit studies will start up any time soon, and most of us would probably want to push it quickly under the carpet if it did. Which perhaps proves Gay's point, and shows why political theorists aren't the most employable of people in the real world.
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