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Public things, excremental politics, and the infrastructure of bare life in Ghana's city of Tema



In Ghana's planned city of Tema, public toilets and sewerage systems are a formative terrain of urban political praxis giving tangible form to what Henri Lefebvre calls “the right to the city.” Revealing the political potentials and determinations of both waste and municipal infrastructure, excreta and the systems devised to contain and channel them serve as res publicae, or “public things.” At the same time they embody the inequities of bare life and biopolitical proscription in Tema's urban margins, waste management arrangements underwrite collective outlooks and entitlements and wrest a space for urban existence outside the grasp of state bureaucracies and political elites.

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