Public Spitting in ‘Developing’ Nations of the Global South: Harmless Embedded Practice or Disgusting, Harmful and Deviant?

  • Ross Coomber
  • Leah Moyle
  • Adele Pavlidis


Largely taboo in ‘Westernized’ nations, spitting in public remains common in many parts of the world. Public health campaigns ‘beyond the West’ tend to stress that spitting in public spreads diseases and is also, in essence, disgusting, uncivilized and deviant. After considering the evidence for such public health concerns, we draw on research carried out in China and India to argue that public spitting is experienced by many in those countries as unproblematic and that anti-spitting campaigns often represent misguided ideas of the ‘civilizing process’ transposed from the global North. This chapter frames opposition to spitting through ‘disruptive cosmopolitanism’ and ‘inverted cultural relativism’ where indigenous elites, in Eliasian fashion, look beyond their own cultural mores to contrasting Western sensibilities and seek to impose them on their own people.


Spitting Civilizing Elias China India Disease Governmentality Bourdieu Foucault 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross Coomber
    • 1
  • Leah Moyle
    • 1
  • Adele Pavlidis
    • 2
  1. 1.Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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