Producing and leaving behind shit is an inevitable part of living for humans and animals, which has been pushed aside and made invisible in both language and the public sphere. Shit is what (almost) always needs to be disposed of, but is something no one wants to deal with.
This fact finds confirmation in the use of the word „shit”, which in many languages is used as a swearword or to express occurring misfortune, trouble, frustration, or anger and everything else bearing a negative connotation. As much as the metaphorical use of the word „shit” seems to have increased, shit as the product of excretion of people and animals is still a taboo.
Nonetheless it is undeniable that all humans not only have to eat and drink but also to empty their bladder and defecate and thus piss and shit.
A lot of what can be said with regards to the influence of food on our quality of life, is equally true for the way we are dealing with shit. Next to the lack of food and clean water the lack of toilets is also a global problem.
Social-medical and historical research have given evidence of the impact of sewage systems – as introduced across Europe from the end of the 18th century onwards – on people’s life expectancy and quality of life as well as in how far the lack of such systems led to epidemic illness and severe health and social problems. Nonetheless, the disposing of shit seems to be a forgotten issue in many development projects. 40 % of the seven billion dignitaries worldwide are without adequate toilet facilities. However, a couple of years ago, initiatives such as the World Toilet Organization have started to raise the awareness of this problem.
Turning shit into a taboo does not only hinder the establishment of lifesaving sanitary systems, it also blocks our perspective on other important areas and activities (conducts) of life. And it prevents us from acknowledging shit as a foundation of life, which has to be seen as a circle of eating, digesting, shitting, enhancing soil fertility, nourishing plants, and producing food.
The fact that shit is fertilizing the growth of more food can be seen as more proof of the idea that all life is meant to be cooperative. Humans thereby recognize themselves as needy and dependent on others as well as being corporeal and fading entities and are part of the circle of life.
Dealing with shit well is thus as equally necessary as its production. To explicitly name and make visible shit and its handling, means putting those conducts and spheres of life, which are essential but nonetheless largely ignored by the dominating order, in the center of our thoughts and practices. These spheres include household, farming, care, and cleaning. It also means systematically dealing with their significance and with the importance of all related activities as well as with the meaning of those who fulfil these activities.
In order to strengthen such a debate, we are in need of a theory, an economy, and ethics of shit. Consequently, some of the authors have already begun work on this under the heading of „shitology.”