Public toilets are places where individual identity is put to the test through experiences of fear, anxiety, shame, and embarrassment, yet also places where we shore up, confirm, and check the status of our gendered identities. In these highly gendered and sex-segregated places, people of various and varied identities come together and separately conduct their 'business' through socially contingent toileting habits and behaviors. Based on empirical research with men, women, gender non-conforming, and trans individuals who have a range of sexual identities, Little Vast Rooms of Undoing attempts to understand a nearly universal aspect of daily life in the contemporary West. Through a meditation on socially dictated practices and their associated emotions, it argues that experiences within public toilets expose the fissures of individual identity construction and understanding and opening the possibilities for a more relational and cohesive experience of the embodied self.
Dara Blumenthal is an interdisciplinary researcher and writer. She completed her BA at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, before moving onto Doctoral research in Sociology, followed by an M.A. in Critical Theory at the University of Kent, UK. While at Kent she held Departmental Scholarships in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research and the School of English.
Introduction: Being (Beyond) Oneself/Part I: The Dis-Embodiment of Identity/ 1. Homo Clausus and the Western Philosophical Tradition/ 2. Homines Aperti and Post-Structuralism/ 3. Corpus Infinitum and Posthumanism/ Part II: Individuating the Communal/ 4. The History of Western Public Toilets since the Fifteenth Century/ Part III: Theory as Practice/ 5. Homo Clausus and The Triadic Intra-Action Order/6. Homines Aperti and Matters of Care/ 7. Corpus Infinitum and the Materiality of Possibility/ Part IV: Entangling Ethics/ 8. Toward a New Ethics of Being/ 9. Epilogue: 'and in a sense/ Works Cited/ Index