ideas, journalism

Why Slate’s article on toilet squatting reminds me of the imprisoned Shane Bauer.

Why? Because he wrote a very similar piece a while back.

You can read it here: The Toiletization of the West

Both Shane Bauer’s and today’s piece by Daniel Lametti in Slate share many of the same ideas: the Sikirov research, the first-world/third-world toilet divide, the physiological contortions spurred by modern toiletry, and of course the perching experiment. To be fair, I don’t think you could write about this stuff without mentioning these very things, so the overlap is unsurprising. If anything, Bauer advances a decidedly post-colonial argument: the appeal of anti-natural toilet design as civilizing agent. Meanwhile, Lametti reminds us of the capitalists and their toilet entrepreneurship.

When Bauer and his friends were captured by Iran, I searched for some of his work out of curiosity, and discovered this essay.* (I knew of a few of Bauer’s projects, having met him once or twice at Berkeley, where our interest in photojournalism overlapped.) I found it strangely resonant at the time, as many people on Twitter are finding Lametti’s piece today. Maybe it revived, for me, the suppressed, culturally jarring memory of a Chinese railway bathroom lined with doorless squat stalls. Or maybe it’s just because everyone poops and is secretly fascinated by it.


*N.B. for F.C.: I’m assuming it’s the same Shane Bauer due to the mention of spending time in the Middle East; his living in California; the fact that his fellow prisoner, Josh Fattal, is listed on the About page; and the site affiliating itself with the Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon, where Fattal was once a staffer. Please let me know if it’s a different Shane Bauer.