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Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly (Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, http://oreilly.tamu.edu) is seeking two (2) graduate student research assistants for an NSF CAREER Award ( project entitled “Human Waste and Human Welfare: A Political Ecology Approach to Sanitation in Rural India.”
The research explores the construction and use of household latrines in four rural sites across India. It seeks to identify and understand the reasons people build and do not build latrines, and why, after construction, latrines are used regularly, sporadically, or not at all. The project involves linking socio-economic and geographic factors with latrine coverage at the national scale. Extensive ethnographic and environmental data will be collected and analyzed for the multiple factors influencing the uneven distribution and use of latrines at village and household scales. A detailed abstract of the project is below.
The students assigned to the project need to be pursuing a Ph.D. degree in geography at Texas A&M, and would hold research assistantships in their first two years as part of the CAREER Award (academic years 2011-2013). Students would be eligible to apply for funding in years three and four of their degree programs through the Department of Geography.
Research assistants’ duties will include travel to India for training and data collection during summer months, and assisting with: 1) data review, coding, and analysis of collected quantitative and qualitative data; 2) investigation of secondary literatures; 3) map making and 4) writing of scholarly products. Language skills in English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil and/or Marwari desired.
The Department of Geography at Texas A&M offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. We currently house five human-environment geographers on staff. Active research programs of faculty keep approximately 17 students busy working on masters and doctoral degrees. Faculty are Dr. Christian Brannstrom, Dr. Burak Guneralp, Dr. Wendy Jepson, Dr. Will Heyman and myself. For more information about the Geography Department please see http://geography.tamu.edu.
Information about applying to Texas A&M can be found at http://takethenextstep.tamu.edu/geography-a-world-of-information.
The Department has no firm application deadline. Please write with any inquiries to email@example.com.
Human Waste and Human Welfare: A Political Ecology Approach to Sanitation in Rural India
The World Health Organization estimates that 2.4 billion people worldwide are without access to sanitation. The high social cost of poor or inadequate sanitation is well known—disease due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene is the leading cause of death in children in the developing world and reduces the quality of life and economic opportunities for millions of adults. However, health concerns do not strongly motivate people in poor countries to build latrines at home. Even when latrines are subsidized and built, people do not use them. There is a critical need to identify and understand the reasons people decide not to build or use latrines, and by contrast, the factors that lead to latrine use and maintenance. This research project will identify the international policies, socio-economic factors, and environmental conditions that influence the building and use of latrines in rural India, where an estimated 360 million people live without access to toilets. Sanitation projects directly depend on land and water resources. The investigator will collect data on environmental conditions (e.g., access to open land or running water) that support existing practices and their locations. The research project will explore latrine use and non-use as complicated by social and spatial norms; for example, women kept in seclusion may cherish the small freedom that open defecation provides. The research project engages an iterative, mixed-method approach. The investigator will use quantitative methods to link socio-economic and geographic factors with latrine building at the national scale. These analyses will inform the selection of four separate sites in rural Indian villages where interviews will be performed. Systematic analysis of extensive ethnographic data will reveal the complex factors influencing the uneven distribution and use of latrines at village and household scales.
The research will provide practical solutions to the global sanitation crisis, by determining the socio-economic, environmental, and geographic factors that influence the willingness and ability of communities to use latrines. Through a multi-scalar exploration of existing sanitation interventions and peoples’ everyday practices, this project will advance knowledge of household-scale adoption or rejection of sanitation interventions in rural India, which may then be used to inform sanitation projects in other rural places. Educational impacts of the project involve in-depth training for American and Indian students and developing a sanitation education module for use in rural India.