Pub. Date:
New York University Press


by Harvey Molotch, Laura Noren


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View "Public Restrooms": A Photo Gallery in The Atlantic Monthly.
So much happens in the public toilet that we never talk about. Finding the right door, waiting in line, and using the facilities are often undertaken with trepidation. Don’t touch anything. Try not to smell. Avoid eye contact. And for men, don’t look down or let your eyes stray. Even washing one’s hands are tied to anxieties of disgust and humiliation. And yet other things also happen in these spaces: babies are changed, conversations are had, make-up is applied, and notes are scrawled for posterity.
Beyond these private issues, there are also real public concerns: problems of public access, ecological waste, and—in many parts of the world—sanitation crises. At public events, why are women constantly waiting in long lines but not men? Where do the homeless go when cities decide to close public sites? Should bathrooms become standardized to accommodate the disabled? Is it possible to create a unisex bathroom for transgendered people?
In Toilet, noted sociologist Harvey Molotch and Laura Norén bring together twelve essays by urbanists, historians and cultural analysts (among others) to shed light on the public restroom. These noted scholars offer an assessment of our historical and contemporary practices, showing us the intricate mechanisms through which even the physical design of restrooms—the configurations of stalls, the number of urinals, the placement of sinks, and the continuing segregation of women’s and men’s bathrooms—reflect and sustain our cultural attitudes towards gender, class, and disability. Based on a broad range of conceptual, political, and down-to-earth viewpoints, the original essays in this volume show how the bathroom—as a practical matter—reveals competing visions of pollution, danger and distinction.
Although what happens in the toilet usually stays in the toilet, this brilliant, revelatory, and often funny book aims to bring it all out into the open, proving that profound and meaningful history can be made even in the can.
Contributors: Ruth Barcan, Irus Braverman, Mary Ann Case, Olga Gershenson, Clara Greed, Zena Kamash,Terry Kogan, Harvey Molotch, Laura Norén, Barbara Penner, Brian Reynolds, and David Serlin.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814795880
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2010
Series: NYU Series in Social and Cultural Analysis Series , #1
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Harvey Molotch is Professor of Sociology at New York University. His books include the classic, Urban Fortunes (with John Logan) and more recently, Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger.

Laura Norén is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at New York University.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
Harvey Molotch
Rest Stop
Part I
2 Dirty Space
Ruth Barcan
Rest Stop
Bryan Reynolds
3 Which Way to Look? Exploring Latrine Use in the Roman World
Zena Kamash
Rest Stop
4 Potty Training
Irus Braverman
Rest Sto
Part I
5 Only Dogs Are Free to Pee
Laura Norén
Rest Stop
6 Creating a Nonsexist Restroom
Clara Greed
Rest Stop
7 Sex Separation
Terry S. Kogan
Rest Stop
8 Pissing without Pit
David Serlin
Rest Stop
Part III: Building in the Future
9 The Restroom Revolution
Olga Gershenson
Rest Stop
Jonathan Head
10 Why Not Abolish Laws of Urinary Segregation?
Mary Anne Case
Rest Stop
11 Entangled with a User
Barbara Penner
Rest Stop: Toilet Bloom @ Bryant Park
12 On Not Making History
Harvey Molotch
About the Contributors

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“When Molotch and Norén let slip a few “pissings” or “pees,” the book becomes livelier, as is befitting of the subject. And the inclusion of essays from scholars of many different disciplines—gender studies, disability rights, architecture—makes this a toilet book not to be missed.”

-Book Bench, The New Yorker Blog ,

“Who could have imagined? A book that weaves cutting edge gender theory into urban planning policy by way of the lowly toilet? A wondrous compendium.”

-Jane Mansbridge,Adams Professor in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

“Peeing is political. The authors of Toilet show us how. In provocative essays from a range of perspectives, we learn what toilets (and their lack) teach us—about hierarchy, inequality, the body, aesthetics and politics. Using toilets as social and cultural prisms, they analyze global collective (in)action, outlining the deeply personal consequences for us all. This is wickedly smart, pointed and passionate public interest scholarship at its best..”

-Lisa Duggan,author of Twilight of Equality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy

Toilet opens the door to a profound and fascinating understanding of the way we use and are abused by public conveniences.”

-Howard S. Becker,author of Outsiders: Studies In The Sociology Of Deviance

“We may not feel comfortable discussing them, but questions of where and how we do our business, particularly in public, have a tremendous impact on our everyday lives. That’s why Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, a new collection of academic essays, is so necessary.”

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