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Dealing with Dirt and the Disorder of Development: Managing Rubbish in Urban Pakistan

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  • Jo Beall

Abstract

This article unveils the different “thought worlds” that inform urban development policy and the reality of urban service delivery in Faisalabad, Pakistan's third largest city. Focusing on changing patterns of residential waste removal and based on ethnographic work among minority Christian street sweepers, the “little sub-worlds” involved in domestic rubbish collection are explored, showing how these articulate with larger “thought worlds” about dirt and disorder. The symbolic meanings of dirt across public and private spheres are examined alongside efforts by development practitioners and donors to impose generic policy solutions related to privatized delivery. Drawing on Mary Douglas's insights about how ritual pollution or danger-beliefs serve generally to maintain social categories and hierarchies, the article nevertheless points to the historically contingent specificities of caste-like relations in urban Pakistan and how these have been constructed. It shows how, under increasing competition for scarce jobs, entitlements associated with hereditary status-based occupations are once more appealed to and reconstructed by these vulnerable waste workers, shaping in the process urban service delivery and the relations that underpin it. The disjuncture born of diverse logics about dirt and disorder reveals an institutional multiplicity and messy social reality that sits uneasily with development as an ordering and unidirectional process.

Suggested Citation

  • Jo Beall, 2006. "Dealing with Dirt and the Disorder of Development: Managing Rubbish in Urban Pakistan," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(1), pages 81-97.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:34:y:2006:i:1:p:81-97 DOI: 10.1080/13600810500496087
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