IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


  • Jo Beall


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

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:34:y:2006:i:1:p:81-97. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.