Worlds of Waste: Urbanization, Sanitation, and Design


Spring 2015 quarter

Taught by

cultural anthropology
urban planning

In this one quarter program, we will explore the connections between human waste (excrement), urbanization, disease, and cultural order. Looking both globally and in the U.S., with an emphasis on the Puget Sound Region, we will consider wastewater planning efforts both past and present.  From global philanthropic efforts to address sanitary living conditions to new innovations in household bathroom infrastructure, our examination will address both system-wide plans as well as detailed design issues of individual units. Students will learn about urban wastewater infrastructure, technical innovations in green building solutions, such as grey water systems, and developments in low-income settings globally. We will also explore the cultural dimensions of purity and waste, looking at potty humor, the gendering of bathroom spaces, pollution, and social class. Students should be prepared to confront and question their own "yuck" thresholds as we peek into sewers, observe wastewater treatment, and inhale the waft of waste.

Students will be engaged in group projects and presentations, writing based on readings of texts, fieldtrips to waste management sites, speakers, and documentaries. This program will uniquely prepare students planning to pursue careers or graduate work in public infrastructure, urban planning, global health, international development and philanthropy, or engineering. 

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

urban planning, public health, engineering, international development, and anthropology.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.


Date Revision
October 30th, 2013 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30347
So - Sr (16 credits): 30350

Go to to register for this program.

Need Help Finding the Right Program?

Contact Academic Advising for help in answering your questions, planning your future and solving problems.