This panel examines how, in times of great uncertainty caused by natural disasters or rapid social change, human beings adopt practices of cleaning and hygiene to re-create order and re-assert control in an effort to cope with visible and invisible threats to their health and safety.
This panel examines how practices of cleaning and hygiene help human beings cope with visible and invisible threats in times of great uncertainty caused by natural disasters or rapid social and political change. We seek ethnographic accounts that address the following questions: How do cleaning practices help actors re-create order in the wake of sudden changes to their physical environment caused by earthquakes and floods? What hygiene strategies are used by people to re-assert control and protect themselves when information about exposure to public health risks such as contaminated food or radiation is not made available to them or when they do not regard it as trustworthy? To what extent do people resort to past practices when cleaning their physical environment or designing methods of protecting themselves from exposure to toxins? How do gender and age shape practices of hygiene? How do actors communicate information about the threats that they identify and the practices that they employ to deal with these threats? What role do advances in science and technology, demographic change and social media play in the development of cleaning practices? How are new strategies of cleaning and hygiene assessed by other actors belonging to the same community, the state and the media? Overall the panel seeks to explore how the creation of new practices of cleaning and hygiene can emancipate actors by helping them form new social ties and enhancing certainty and trust in instable settings.