Waterlines recently published Dean, Diane and my paper on the relationship between social fragmentation in villages and the persistence of open defecation in India. We use quantitative data to show the correlation between perceptions of village conflict, both general and caste-based, and open defecation, and qualitative data to explain how caste hierarchy could be a mechanism linking conflict and open defecation.
We hope that this paper pushes all of us working on sanitation in India to think beyond traditional approaches to motivating latrine use. We must seriously question whether popular methods that rely on collaboration can be effective in a context like rural India where deep social divisions continue to govern interactions in daily life. Experimentation is critical to finding strategies that will work in tackling India’s unique open defecation challenge.