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Infrastructure, ‘Seeing Sanitation’ and the Urban Political in an Era of Late Neoliberalism

Abstract

In an urbanizing world, the inequalities of infrastructure are increasingly politicized in ways that reconstitute the urban political. A key site here is the politicization of human waste. The centrality of sanitation to urban life means that its politicization is always more than just service delivery. It is vital to the production of the urban political itself. The ways in which sanitation is seen by different actors is a basis for understanding its relation to the political in an era of late neoliberalism. We chart Cape Town’s contemporary sanitation syndrome, its condition of crisis, and the remarkable politicization of toilets and human waste in the city’s townships and informal settlements in recent years. We identify three tactics—poolitical tactics—that politicize not just sanitation but Cape Town itself: poo protests, auditing and sabotage. We evaluate these tactics, consider what is at stake, and chart possibilities for a more just urban future.

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Acknowledgements

The chapter is based on a revised paper: McFarlane, C. and Silver, J., 2017. The Poolitical City: “Seeing Sanitation” and Making the Urban Political in Cape Town. Antipode, 49(1), pp. 125–148. The authors would like to acknowledge Antipode in allowing the material to be used in this volume.

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McFarlane, C., Silver, J. (2018). Infrastructure, ‘Seeing Sanitation’ and the Urban Political in an Era of Late Neoliberalism. In: Enright, T., Rossi, U. (eds) The Urban Political. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64534-6_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64534-6_7

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  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

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