Exploring “The Remote” and “The Rural”: Open Defecation and Latrine Use in Uttarakhand, India

January 2017

Open defecation is a major global health problem. The number of open defecators in India dwarfs that of other states, and most live in rural places. Open defecation is often approached as a problem scaled at the site of the individual, who makes a choice not to build and/or use a toilet. Attempts to end rural open defecation by targeting individuals, like social marketing or behavior change approaches, often ignore the structural inequalities that shape rural residents’ everyday lives. #

This study explores the question, “What is the role of remoteness in sustaining open defecation in rural India?” The authors deploy the concept of remoteness as an analytical tool that can capture everyday practices of open defecation as a function of physical and social distance.

Using ethnographic methods, they interviewed and observed 70 participants in four villages in Uttarakhand, India over a three-month period in 2013. The study finds that remoteness in general, and its lived nuances, form a context for prevalent open defecation. Structural inequalities across space will need to be addressed to make latrine building and usage viable in remote places.

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