Jennifer Barr – Anthropologist

Location: Delhi, India.

What do you do?
I’m a PhD candidate in Anthropology (with an affiliation with the department of global health) at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Anthropologists study human variation. I’m a medical anthropologist, and I study the various ways in which people think, talk, act and experience health.
I’ve been living in Delhi the last year doing data collection for my dissertation. I study how nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who work on sanitation issues (defined as being fecal waste) try to influence national conversations around sanitation. What are NGOs doing? What stories are they trying to tell about toilets? What are they trying to get policy makers and other NGOs to talk about? How do you get people to talk about something as taboo and complicated as toilets?

This topic is especially pressing in India, where nearly half the country’s population defecates in the open and urban centers barely treat a fraction of the fecal waste they produce. This causes pollution, economic disaster, illness, and thousands of deaths. In India, talking about toilets is hard, because when you do you talk about caste, gender, politics, and economics, not to mention that feces isn’t a glamorous topic. So how do NGOs working on this really important topic get people to talk about feces?

What can you see?
Almost every day, I have to go somewhere else. This picture is of a media event put on by a sanitation NGO. They’re cleaning a pond with some form of bioremediation (using bacteria to digest the bad bacteria and pathogens), but first you have to get your photo opportunities. The founder of the organization wades in and skims a bit of duckweed off the top while a dozen cameras from both the organization and outside snap and record.

When I’m not doing science I …
am going on history walks in old Delhi, writing my novel, or binge reading murder mysteries.

If you want to find out more about Jennifer’s work you can find her on twitter @jenniferabarr