Culture and Sanitation in Small Towns: An Ethnographic Study of Angul and Dhenkanal in Odisha

Culture and Sanitation in Small Towns: An Ethnographic Study of Angul and Dhenkanal in Odisha

By Anju Dwivedi and Ranjita Mohanty
Economic & Political Weekly, 12 October 2019

In the current sanitation policy discourse, cultural norms of purity and pollution are considered major obstacles to toilet use, leading to an emphasis on behavioural change. A recent study of slums in Angul and Dhenkanal—two small towns in Odisha—shows that culture does not operate in isolation. It is determined by multiple factors such as the availability of physical space in urban areas, the resources to be invested, essential infrastructure such as water, and accessible, cost-effective technology. There are aspects of culture that people compromise on, but certain cultural norms are non-negotiable. This calls for a decoding of the cultural determinants of sanitation.