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The dirty lab: understanding and changing toilet and garbage cultures 
Dan Podjed (ZRC SAZU)
Laura Korčulanin (EASA AANIADE - UE)
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Thursday 23 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Lisbon

Short Abstract:

The aim of this lab is to show how anthropologists can be involved in designing innovative and applied solutions for the improvement of water and waste management and the promotion of sustainable practices in urban areas, including Lisbon.

Long Abstract:

"Dung is gold and gold is dung." This motto of the lab comes from a Slovenian modernist poet Srečko Kosovel (1904-1926). The lab focuses on the value of "unclean" things and brings to the front the "matters-out-of-place" as described by Mary Douglas. It highlights the contemporary "wicked problems" related to unsustainable water and waste management. According to the World Bank, global solid waste will rise from 3.5 million tonnes per day in 2010 to 6 million tonnes in 2025. In addition, up to 30% of drinkable water is already being flushed down the drain together with human excrements. Hence, we need new solutions to reduce the production of waste, change our water management practices, influence the existing consumption patterns and provide a new meaning to things that are "thrown away".

In the first part of the lab, participants will be involved in a short ethnographic study, which will be carried out in a micro-location in Lisbon. By "digging through trash", visiting the public toilets and doing participant observation "in situ", they will get familiar with the local toilet and garbage cultures and reflect on their own habits and practices. In the second part, they will get familiar with different design and development approaches which can help to find new solutions for establishing regenerative, circular and sustainable waste- and water-related practices in urban areas. The main output will be an installation made of collected debris, which will shed new light on the potential of waste reduction and show how water management in cities can be improved.