Brown Meets Green: the Political Fecology of

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Although many would argue that it is a topic largely untouched by cultural theory, the scatological has long been an object of scholarly analysis. However, the tendency among cultural critics since Freud, and in particular those informed by Julia Kristeva and Mikhail Bakhtin, is to read the scatological as profoundly ambivalent, the textual consequence of a more fundamental opposition between shit and the symbolic. But as I argue in this essay, the assumption that shit and text are radically separate overlooks both the historical construction of this assumption as well as its potential ecological consequences. In light of recent analyses within green cultural studies that call for an ethical connection to waste, I argue here for an ecocritical approach to scatological texts, using the website as a case study. Drawing on the writings of bioregionalist thinkers Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, I illustrate how the first-person shit narratives that constitute the backbone of PoopReport articulate a different relationship between shit and the symbolic: one in which shit does not threaten systems of language and identity so much as emblematize their self-regulatory functioning. This alternate form of relationality to shit, I conclude, engenders an alternate form of subjectivity, one with the potential to resist processes of economic distancing that force individuals to act in a social and ecological vacuum, isolated from a knowledge of their impact on the world.

-- M. Cortez

Brown Meets Green: the Political Fecology of

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Though scholarly writing on the scatological seems perennially to provoke the sort of shock that attends the novel and scandalous, Western cultural theory since Freud's "Character and Anal Erotism" has in fact long engaged the relationship between shit and culture, the scatological and the symbolic. Included within this by-now-venerable tradition of shit crit are Dominique Laporte's History of Shit, Alan Dundes's study of scatology in German folklore, Mikhail Bakhtin's discussion of Rabelais, and Julia Kristeva's concept of the abject -- to give just a few examples. Along with Freud, these latter two theorists in particular have come to define the terms of the prevailing framework for reading shit, although what makes them definitive -- namely, a reading of shit as ambivalent -- is also to some extent what characterizes as a whole the legacy of brown criticism post-Freud. According to this prevailing framework, the scatological as a textual presence is verboten but haunting, marginal but constitutive, horrific but subversive and liberatory.

Contemporary cultural criticism has generally maintained this emphasis on shit's textual ambivalence, and has also noted the seeming proliferation of scatological texts in recent times. In 1994, for example, the literary journal Genre devoted an entire issue to "the culture of filth", in whose introductory essay Richard A. Barney writes that

[T]hese days filth comes at us from all sides: from pictures of the piles of bodies in Rwanda or Bosnia, from T. Coraghessan Boyle's exultingly messy novel The Road to Wellville, ... from Stimpy's cartoon love affair with his litter box, or from art films nominated for Academy Awards such as The Madness of King George. ... The current fascination with the abject has spread even to children's literature, as in the case of well-known books such as Taro Gomi's Everyone Poops and Shinta Cho's The Gas We Pass: the Story of Farts.1

There is much we can affirm in Barney's observations; to his list we can now add recent items of our own such as Jackass, Southpark, Wim Delvoye's Cloaca, Urinetown: the Musical, and -- as concerns the focus of this essay -- websites such as All of these cultural productions speak to the continued relevance of Barney's comments on the "culture of filth", written though they were nearly ten years ago.

However, I would contend that Barney's observations are as problematic as they are accurate, in no small part due to his casual use of the term "abject" to head the entire list of texts he names -- "abject" referring here to Kristeva's term for what we necessarily reject in the delimitation of self and society. 2 For the same span of time that has witnessed the proliferation of filthy texts has also seen the emergence of a critical space for rethinking the very categories of "filth" and "waste" upon which Barney's analysis hinges. This development has taken place largely outside of literary criticism as narrowly conceived, arising instead at the confluence of ecology, cultural studies, and Marxist political economy -- a synthesis that has yielded the rise of such disciplinary hybrids as political ecology, green cultural studies, and ecocriticism. 3 Perhaps best representative of this new filth-consciousness is a recent volume of essays entitled Culture and Waste (2003), which examines the ethical implications of a category that has primarily been conceptualized in structural terms, seen as the negative of both culture and value. In focusing not simply on the positive or negative value of waste, but instead on the "complex role [waste plays] in formations of value", editors Gay Hawkins and Stephen Muecke stress "not our difference from waste and our mastery of it, but our profound implications with it". This paves the way, they argue, for an "ethics of responsibility", an ethics that, in being "open to the various responses and affects waste can initiate", recognizes its ability to "make us think about what we are doing". 4

So although the present cultural moment may indeed be one in which we are increasingly bombarded with "filth", it is also one that has witnessed the ecological and cultural imperative to think differently about the things whose displacement from consciousness shapes our material relationships to self, body, and others. We cannot, then, as Barney does, so easily read the scatological content of recent texts within the prevailing framework of brown criticism -- via a theory of abjection, as in Barney's case, but no more satisfactorily by way of the Bakhtinian grotesque, which celebrates the positivity of shit without confronting the structural or psychic mechanisms that occasion its prior negative status. As I will point out in this essay, these oversights have resulted in a brown hermeneutics that assumes a radical separation of shit and self -- and which consequently overlooks not only the material reasons for such a separation, but its ecological consequences as well.

An alternate method for reading shit is therefore necessary, one that escapes the binary between a liberatory grotesque and an apocalyptic abject, both of which ultimately depend upon impermeable bodily and social boundaries against which shit is the disruptive outside, capable of signifying within texts only the indeterminate, the excessive, and the unassimilable. As a way around (or through) this theoretical dualism, I propose an ecocritical reading of the scatological, one that does not assume an antagonism between order and ordure, and which hence sees shit as a familiar and knowable part of symbolic systems. In particular, I want to draw upon Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder's bioregionalist understandings of place, subjectivity, and narrative to argue for a political fecology5: a critical framework for reading shit that arises at the meeting point of brown and green, and which derives its interpretive power from proximity to rather than distance from shit.

To instantiate this reading, I can think of no better text to use than the aforementioned website and online community Declaring its status as "Your #1 Site for Your #2 Business", 6 PoopReport is a website devoted to the "(relatively) intellectual appreciation of poop humor". 7 A better and more thorough description exists on PoopReport's Frequently Asked Question page, where according to one of the site's many regular contributors, PoopReport

explore[s], even meditate[s] upon the human condition from the vantage point of pooping and poop. ... [Thus] [o]ur emotional tone is one of curiosity and mutual respect. This frees us up to venture into one of the culture's shame-indoctrination zones -- poop[.] ... We are not into thrill seeking or disgust for its own sake. We don't just talk about poop and pooping, we reflect on it. We engage the subject, own it and our participation in it. 8

The creation of a 26-year-old writer and programmer from Brooklyn, PoopReport began in late 2000 as a forum for the posting of humorous poop stories; since then it has swelled to over 700 pages of stories, articles, discussion threads, and forums, in which hundreds of site contributors ceaselessly ruminate on every conceivable aspect of human excretory experience. These features of PR, which together make up its "(relatively) intellectual appreciation of poop humor", would alone be grist for the mill of any cultural critic interested in tracing shifting representations of the scatological across time, geography, and media. What is of concern to the present essay, however, is the thread of nascent political self-consciousness that ties together these features and all of their voluminous content into a philosophical whole: the concept of Shamelessness, embodiment of which can be found in a document called the "Shameless Shitting Manifesto". Click on the link from the homepage to the Manifesto -- an image of an upraised, anger-red fist with plunger in hand -- and the visitor encounters demands for a "fecal utopia" in which all people "have the right to enter a bathroom, drop a deuce, and leave -- without anyone caring, and without caring if anyone cares". 9 Carnivalesque though this may sound, I nonetheless want to make the argument that the notion of Shamelessness, particularly when made concrete and textual in the form of poop stories, can be better read within the bioregionalist framework mentioned above, in which shit neither constitutes nor transgresses the delimitations of systems but instead is essential to their self-regulatory functioning.

I should issue a brief caveat before proceeding. In limiting the scope of my examination to the textual and ecological aspects of PoopReport, I am necessarily and selectively ignoring an entire range of possible readings and interpretive methodologies: gendered, racial, sexual, historical, hypertextual, and ethnographic (to name a few). This essay therefore cannot stand as any sort of definitive statement on the meaning of PoopReport. But I also think that my goal in this essay is less to declare what the site is than to suggest how we might look differently at its scatological content -- a task that I feel must precede any comprehensive analysis of the site's cultural functioning. Consider what follows, then, to be a point of departure rather than a conclusion: the provisional jumping off point for a more thoroughgoing discussion of the scatological within cultural, literary, media, and environmental studies.

Before I get to an ecocritical reading of PoopReport, it might be helpful to show why such a reading is both necessary and useful. To that end, this section starts with a brief description of Bakhtin and Kristeva's respective approaches to the scatological -- the theoretical poles that constitute what I have been calling the prevailing framework for reading shit. I then take as a representative of this framework a recent exchange between Bakhtinian critic Ashraf H.A. Rushdy and his Kristevan counterpart Kelly Anspaugh. As will become clearer, the exchange between a Bakhtinian and Kristevan reading of the scatological runs into a theoretical dilemma that ultimately distances what both critics -- and especially Rushdy -- are trying to make epistemologically visible.

I begin with Mikhail Bakhtin, a Russian critic whose germinal and much-cited Rabelais and His World (1965) re-examines the centrality of the filthy and profane within Francois Rabelais's 16th century comedy Gargantua and Pantagruel. Contrary to previous readings of the novel as satirical -- an interpretation that Bakhtin sees as tied to modern and largely negative attitudes toward the body -- Bakhtin sees Rabelais's celebration of the "grotesque body" as rooted in the medieval forms of folk humor traditionally associated with the rituals of European carnival. According to Bakhtin, the parody, ribaldry, and comic spectacle inherent to carnival emphasized a "deeply positive" view of the body, 10 in which the body's numerous orifices, swellings, and secretions symbolized a principle of gleeful superabundance opposed to all that was official and hierarchical. Bakhtin argues that although carnival as folk ritual disappeared in Europe starting in the 17th century, its spirit of subversive festivity persisted in textual form via the imagery of the grotesque body, which Bakhtin calls "grotesque realism". 11 Within both actual and literary carnival, then, the subversive power of the grotesque stems from its ability to degrade what is "high", to draw it down to the level of the earth and the "material lower bodily strata" of reproductive and excretory functioning. 12 But this process of degradation does not end with the object's destruction. Instead the degraded object finds renewal in the regenerative, positive aspect of the fecund and fecal body; and as such, the overflowing excretions of the grotesque present an image of life "in its two-fold contradictory process ... of death and birth, growth and becoming".13 Here the grotesque is ambivalent in its dual ability to "bury and revive", 14 but for Bakhtin it is always the upswing of degradation that defines the process: though shit is ambivalent, is it ultimately "gay matter",15 a subversive substance that speaks to the relativity of official hierarchies in the face of the indestructible festivity of populist unity.

Sue Vice (1997) has pointed out that if Bakhtin tries to recuperate the positive element in those bodily phenomena we now consider negative, Julia Kristeva's concept of abjection attempts to explains why we might view these phenomena as negative in the first place. 16 In Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection (1982), Kristeva marries Lacanian psychoanalysis to the structural anthropology of Mary Douglas, whose famous argument that dirt is "matter out of place" first pointed out the stabilizing role that exclusion plays in the establishment of social order. 17 Likewise, Kristeva argues that shit is negative because it represents par excellence what the individual must reject in order to delimit the bounds of his or her subectivity. The excremental, as Kristeva tells us, is what the "I" is not; "dung signifies the other side of the border, the place where I am not and which permits me to be". 18 When present within the symbolic realm of "language, law, and gender difference", shit thus reminds the subject of "a boundary its existence is premised upon forgetting", a boundary beyond which lies the realm of prohibition and "unmeaning". 19 It is this idea which leads to Kristeva's infamous pronouncement regardng the symbolic power of shit, invoked by many a subsequent reader of the scatological: "[i]t is ... not a lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules". 20 When it appears in literary texts, then, shit functions as ambivalent because it symbolizes the return of the very thing that the symbolic must exclude in the process of self-definition. Kristeva's understanding of the ambivalence of shit thus tends to emphasize the negative, threatening aspect of its double character -- just as Bakhtin presents a similarly lopsided (if inverted) ambivalence, in which the upward movement of degradation takes precedence over the downward.

The Kristevan perspective on the literary function of the scatological is often employed as a corrective to the uncritical idealism that Bakhtin's critics contend he advocates. In The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (1986), Peter Stallybrass and Allon White list the numerous problems with carnival's political vision, including its "nostalgia; its uncritical populism; ... its failure to do away with the official dominant culture, [and] its licensed complicity". 21 This last point is perhaps most frequently cited among critics of Bakhtin, who argue that unless the celebratory populism of carnival is properly historicized, it can embody a form of ritualized contestation, a subversive display sanctioned by the very official culture it symbolically opposes. In this respect it functions as "safety valve", releasing and defusing popular energy that would otherwise amount to a challenge to the circumscribing structure. 22 To a large degree, it is this criticism that those scholars who take a Bakhtinian approach to shit fail to account for, and hence this criticism that opens them up to an equally uncritical deployment of Kristeva's theory of abjection -- as we can see in the following exchange between literary critics Ashraf H.A. Rushdy and Kelly Anspaugh.

In "A New Emetics of Interpretation: Swift, His Critics and the Alimentary Canal" Ashraf H.A. Rushdy uses Bakhtin's notions of the indeterminate and unfinished grotesque body to argue for a different reading of Jonathan Swift's scatological poems, one that "uses as its model of the indeterminateness of interpretive practice the open-endedness of the alimentary canal". 23 Rushdy states that cultures which perceive the body's excretory functions as shameful "tend to deny or underplay the fluidity ... of the body's patterns of ingestion and excretion", instead viewing the system as a one-way and one-hole process. 24 Critical approaches to Swift's scatological poems have been similarly unidirectional, Rushdy avers, either condemning or excusing Swift while remaining unaware of the constructedness of both responses. Rushdy thus posits a hermeneutic method that is "purgative" -- open -- "in that it allows one to examine not only what one's gut reaction is, but also what made one's gut reaction as it is". 25 Criticism, he states, should not simply reaffirm what we already value and disavow what we do not, but rather should examine the very social construction of value itself by which we critique cultural production. When we can do this, we move past a condemnatory or defensive response to Swift's scatology, and instead stand open to what a Bakhtinian excremental vision (which Rushdy sees Swift as proffering) can offer us: an understanding of "the relativity of value systems" modeled after "the openendedness of the human body". 26

And while I believe that Rushdy's approach to reading shit is spot-on -- very similar to what I want to propose in this essay -- his use of Bakhtin to effect this reading is problematic. For in overlooking the critique of carnival as licensed subversion, Rushdy also overlooks the possibility that for Bakhtin, shit is festive and carnivalesque precisely because it opposes official culture -- that it is positive, in other words, because of its prior separation from self and society. Furthermore, in overlooking this critique of Bakhtin, Rushdy opens himself up to these same critics, who utterly disregard the value his "emetics of interpretation" has in establishing a form of criticism aware of its own ideological underpinnings. Kelly Anspaugh, for instance, responds to Rushdy's oversights in a piece entitled "Powers of Ordure: James Joyce and the Excremental Vision(s)", arguing that Rushdy makes two major mistakes in his eagerness to apply a "happy excremental philosophy" 27 to Jonathan Swift's scatology. First, Anspaugh attests, Rushdy misreads Swift as a grotesque realist, when Bakhtin himself pointed out that post-Renaissance figurations of the grotesque generally lost the positive character of their ambivalence, becoming "purely negative satire". 28 Had Rushdy wanted to test out his emetics of interpretation on a modern writer, Anspaugh says, a more fitting choice might have been James Joyce, whose Finnegan's Wake and Ulysses bear out his status as confirmed coprophiliac.

Anspaugh then turns to an analysis of Joyce's scatology, and in the process comes to his second point about Rushdy's use of Bakhtin. It isn't simply, he says, that Swift is a poor choice for a Bakhtinian reading -- it is also that a "sunny vision of shit" itself is misguided. For even someone as ostensibly shit-happy as Joyce "consistently ... underscores the dark side of excrementality": and thus Anspaugh turns to a Kristevan reading of shit to illustrate that for Joyce -- as for Kristeva -- "the grotesque body is no laughing matter". 29 Anspaugh claims that Joyce's novelistic figuration of shit is always a fascination troubled by simultaneous horror, a sublimating movement from low to high that enables Joyce's protagonists to transcend the dreck of the world through the redemptive power of art. Though Anspaugh concedes that there is a fair bit of Rabelais in Joyce, he asserts that a Bakhtinian reading does not necessarily follow from this; furthermore, he states, "it is possible that Bakhtin may be misreading Rabelais, over-emphasizing the 'gay' aspect of that writer's ambiguous fecal matter". 30

This is a fair enough criticism, and one that a number of critics have already made. But Anspaugh does not stop there. Citing Peter Stallybrass and Allon White's observation that unless qualified, the politics of carnival are "wishful and finally unusable as an analytical tool", 31 Anspaugh comments that

What is true of Bakhtin's view of the grotesque body may also be true of his view of that body's products. As pleasant as it may be for some to think that excrement's present status as pollution is purely the result of cultural bias, one must stop and consider: what sense does it make to say that a young animal's reluctance to foul its own nest is the result of socialization? Is there not something inevitable -- dare I say 'natural' -- in such behavior? Could it be that excrement's status as 'ordure', that which evokes horror, is beyond the vicissitudes of history and culture? 32

Anspaugh does not answer this question for us per se, but goes on to say that, despite all outward appearances to the contrary, Joyce is and remains a satirist -- a writer for whom shit figures metaphorically because of its power to disrupt the Kristevan trinity of "identity, system, order". Furthermore, he concludes, only the "unlikely development" of a "transvaluation of all values," would legitimate the lowly turd as anything other than satire. 33

But in his zeal to point out the limitations of a Bakhtinian reading of shit and to use Kristeva as countermeasure, Anspaugh inverts the very critical error of which he accuses Rushdy (and, by extension, Bakhtin). If both of these scholars overlook the ambivalent nature of shit by overemphasizing its festive qualities, Anspaugh's attempt to compensate by way of Kristeva overstresses the negativity of shit. In doing so he comes close to naturalizing Kristeva's understanding of the "necessity of exclusion in the creation of the symbolic", 34 reading this necessity as moral prescription rather than a description of cultural and psychic mechanisms. In the process, he neglects not only the historically contingent nature of abjection, but also the material and ecological consequences of those attitudes toward shit that a theory of abjection so powerfully explains.

As the exchange between Rushdy and Anspaugh suggests, the prevailing critical framework for reading shit leads to an unproductive theoretical bind. On the one hand, we have a reading of the grotesque that ignores shit's abject potential; on the other hand, we have an application of Kristeva that naturalizes abjection as the proper relationship between shit and the symbolic. Either way -- and despite Rushdy's best efforts -- the meanings ascribed to the scatological circulate in a moral rather than material economy. Rather than being linked to historical and ecological causes and effects, shit instead is perpetually "ambivalent": positive or negative, transgressive or horrific, suggestive of a transcendental cosmic unity or disturbing to the very foundations of subjectivity. Whether used for good or bad, shit can only be a part of the text if it is apart from self and society; when symbolically present, it must always be rationalized away by a hermeneutics of moral justification. In this way, contemporary cultural criticism distances shit as a cultural category, even as it attempts to make it epistemologically visible.

But as many green scholars and activists have pointed out, the particular conception of order that underlies a view of shit as materially separate from life is, in ecosystemic terms, a profoundly disordered one. As stated nicely by a webpage on permaculture, an "ecological design science",

Order is found in things working beneficially together. The fact that neatness, tidiness, and straightness require extensive investments of energy ... yet produce little yield, tells us that these illusory forms of order are, in fact, nature in wild disarray. True order often lies in apparent confusion, like a meadow, with its hundreds of hidden synergies. 35

For shit to represent only the positive and negative poles of a moral ambivalence thus signals a condition in which the subject expends unhealthy amounts of psychic and social energy making "strategically absent" 36 what the body produces more or less unremarkably. Using the above quote as a springboard, the next section considers how an ecocritical framework, rooted in this alternate conception of order, more effectively realizes Rushdy's "emetics of interpretation" by avoiding the dualistic and moralistic horns of the Bakhtin-Kristeva dilemma. Using PoopReport as a test case, I will draw specifically on bioregionalist understandings of place and narrative to suggest another way of reading of the scatological, one premised upon the assumption that there can be other relations between order and ordure, and hence other ways to write the scatological, to narrate the relationship between shit and self.

In "The Pleasures of Eating", farmer, writer, and scholar Wendell Berry begins with a proposition: "eating", he writes, "is an agricultural act". 37 By this he means that eating occurs as one node along an entire cyclical process that moves from "soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again"; in eating, we subjectively locate ourselves within this larger sequence of events. But Berry points out that within societies in which industrialized food production predominates, we lose a sense of participation in these cycles; instead we identify primarily as consumers, for whom the freedom from cumbersome seasonal and geographical limits equates to convenience and better living. 38

Ecological economist Thomas Princen refers to this phenomenon as "distancing", in which "the separation of production and consumption decisions" within a rapidly expanding global market "impede[s] ecological and social feedback". 39 Distancing breaks down the flow of information that would otherwise attune the user of a resource to the signals that indicate the availability and wellbeing of that resource, so that agents along the chain from extraction to final purchase must make production and consumption decisions in isolation from both the land and one another. As this isolation increases and feedback decreases, it becomes increasingly difficult to assess the impact of single decision-points along the chain, ultimately leading, in Princen's words, to "uncounted costs and unaccountable actors". 40 And while in the supermarket this isolation may look like the freedom and convenience of consumer choice, Berry points out that this freedom is in fact an illusory one: it is "a kind of solitude", he writes, best symbolized by "a walled city surrounded by valves that let merchandise in but no consciousness out". 41

When considered alongside the prevailing framework for reading the scatological, Berry's metaphor takes on particular significance, for it seems descriptive not only of industrialized food production systems but of the conceptions of order and self that inform the dominant readings of shit. For the industrialized self, we might say, shit is epistemologically distanced as the unassimilable element of text and order; it serves as "limit-category" that marks the boundary between known and unknowable, but which itself is always indeterminate. 42 Seen in this light, Berry's metaphor becomes doubly interesting. For in describing a system that "let[s] merchandise in but no consciousness out", he inverts the accustomed relationship between known and unknown, order and ordure: instead of a cognitive system constituted through the elimination of what can't be known -- and which results in a polarized conceptualization of shit as either positive or negative -- Berry describes a system defined by its failure to excrete. Moreover, he describes this system in terms of its failure to excrete consciousness. In this way, he implicitly identifies shit with the knowledge of place we lose when we are geographically and culturally distant from agricultural cycles. To restore this place-consciousness, he claims, we must restore the sense that eating is agricultural, "reclaiming responsibility for [our] own part in the food economy". To that end, he makes a number of practical recommendations, chief among which is learning the "origins" and "life histories" of the foods that one grows, buys, and eats. According to Berry, it is when we know the story of our food that we escape the epistemological trap that the walled city symbolizes, repairing the dynamic informational flow that links "eater and eaten" and in the process cultivating a sense of agency and "responsibility". 43

Berry's idea of knowing the story of one's food is useful here as a framework for reading the poop stories that form such a central part of For just as an industrialized system of food production distances us from a knowledge of the origins and histories of what we ingest, so too do industrial technologies for the treatment of human waste make epistemologically invisible the destinations and consequences of what we excrete. As green architect Sim Van der Ryn has pointed out in The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water (1995), the large-scale water-based sewer systems used in the industrial West unbalance both the waterways that serve as repository for chemically-treated human wastes and the land-based nutrient cycles that would benefit from an application of "human manure". 44 The result, Van der Ryn says, is the destruction of soil health through the use of petroleum-based fertilizers; the eutrophication of rivers and lakes; the reliance on a costly and expensive system for the separation of "one part excreta" from "one hundred parts clean water"; and -- as concerns us here -- an attendant philosophy that views shit as radically separate from self and society, something to be mastered and eliminated through increasingly advanced systems of dumping shit into drinking water. 45

But if knowing the story of our food can restore us to a knowledge of our participation in the cycling of matter and energy, and to the adverse ecological consequences that can result when we are distant from these processes, it follows that knowing the story of our shit might accomplish complementary results. Thus we might see PoopReport's narrative shamelessness as a manner of relating to and writing the body that attends precisely to what the social and intellectual technologies of an industrialized sewer system most strenuously attempt to distance from cognition and perception. Through the poop story, the textual does not function as the anxious symptom of the excretory so much as the process through which the subject relates dynamically and responsively to shit.

If "Shamelessness" is the ideological centerpiece of, the engine that drives this philosophical vision is the first person poop narrative. Nearly three years into its online existence, the site has collected approximately 250 of these incursions into the land of Too Much Information, ranging in style and length from the pithy and anecdotal to the lengthy and belletristic. Despite this variety and quantity, it is nonetheless possible to discern two basic narrative features that together construct the "shameless subject". Through a thematic and formal attentiveness to the experience of pooping -- the "what" and "how" of PoopReporting -- site contributors produce a manner of representing the scatological that stresses its proximity to rather than distance from the self, and from which emerges an alternate subjectivity whose contours resemble the porous stability of what Gary Snyder has called the bioregion.

I start with thematic attentiveness to pooping experience: what sorts of things do poopers report? By and large, the bulk of the PR canon consists of stories that relate the intensities of the body -- to the extent that the theme of "explosive diarrhea under compromising circumstances" has become a chestnut worthy of parody. As one PoopReporter muses, "[i]t's almost as if some folks take perverse pleasure in partaking in The Diet From Hell and then making sure they are also way the hell out of pocket when it comes time to pay the, piper". 46 "Cricket, Curry, and Cramps", for instance, documents the moment of anal truth that occurs after a 3 a.m. beer-and-curry bender followed by an afternoon of wicketkeeping. Having narrowly avoided a mid-game soiling, the narrator later recalls that "[t]he sound was tremendous. I was thinking Niagara Falls, only more powerful. By this stage I had dexterously lifted my ass off the seat in order to avoid the possibility of back-splash. I felt what seemed like three to four litres of pure acidic bile spray out of my anus like a high-pressure hose". Postscripted to these revelations is a brief note of thanks, in which the narrator expresses gratitude to the site's many readers for their knowledge regarding "a subject which is perhaps under-explored and certainly not publicly-aired enough". 47

Related in theme to tales of excretory near- and total misses, and just as frequently-submitted, are stories that narrate experiences whose intensity derives from physical or psychological distress rather than from the risk of public humiliation. "Constipation", for instance, details the bowel movements of a pooper whose chronic lack of intestinal motility produces "turds as hard as depleted uranium and with the diameter of a 4yr old child's arm". 48Similarly, "Shell Hell" describes the sphincter-shredding aftereffects of ingesting three bags of sunflower seeds with shells intact: "this was much more painful than normal shit," the narrator notes. "It was cutting and slicing my asshole like a butcher infatuated with meat".49 As we can see from just a few examples, the agonies and ecstasies of bowel activity are a major impetus for the reporting of one's poop.

Yet for the stories that narrate the body's intensities, "shamelessness" is not necessarily what the PoopReporter experiences at the time of the recounted events. As the postscript to "Curry, Cricket, and Cramps" suggests, shamelessness is a function of the narrative act itself; it is the willingness to speak about what is "not publicly-aired enough". By vocalizing both public humiliation and private discomfort as humorous items of interest to others, PoopReporters interrogate the social dicta that relegate subjective experience of intestinal functioning to the realm of the private and "under-explored". Defending the rights of people to bear witness to their bowels, one PoopReporter sums up the essence of this exploratory shamelessness in a comment to a critic of the site, stating that "[t]his [website] is where the proud stand up and report their poop. This is where we humans can take pride in our bodily functions and share it with the public. This is where we can take a moment of our personal lives, shape it into a humorous story so that others may look at it and laugh". 50

We can definitely see an element of the Bakhtinian at play here, both in the celebration of shit, and in the allusion to a bathroom humor that confounds the distinctions between public and private. Equally present in PoopReporters' insistence on textualizing what the symbolic excludes is the "fascinated horror" characteristic of abjection. But the concept of shamelessness that inheres within poop reporting includes something that neither the Bakhtinian nor Kristevan understanding of shit encompasses: namely, an observational and journalistic approach that privileges description over evaluation -- and which ultimately allows PoopReporters to explore, in addition to the agonies and ecstasies of the excremental, those mundane, routine, and technical aspects of defecatory experience most effaced by the technologies of "industrial shitting".

This documentary function is largely carried out by a kind of formal shamelessness -- a playful approach to language that names the routinized and hence epistemologically distant practices that nonetheless define our relationship to the corporeal. Invented turns of phrase, for example, convey the particularities of bathroom habit: waiting until the last possible second before "backing your ass to the toilet seat" so that "the shit comes out [your] ass the moment [you] hit the seat" is dubbed "The Move"; 51 while the "courtesy flush" references a pre-wipe flush enacted to reduce the unseemly impact of either noise or smell during a public poop. 52 In both of these examples, a playful neologistic impulse codifies events and subjective registers that -- due to the habits engendered by technologies of shame and privacy -- would escape not simply vocalization but cognition itself: the awareness of particular relations to self, body, and others as distinct events to be thought and spoken.

Similarly playful is the ever-expanding stock of colorful verbiage upon which PoopReporters draw to describe a limited number of functions and parts. A kind of literary prankishness infuses otherwise unmentionable -- because unexceptional -- events and objects, such that a sphincter becomes a "straining balloon knot" or a "brown eye"; a turd is a "muddy rooster tail" or a "Captain Darksnake"; and an impending fart is recast as a "broccoli and tuna steam sauna beckoning at the backdoor". 53This playful process of naming and renaming reaches a peak of near-frenzy in the site's propensity for scatological punning, which christens a story about a gaseous trip to the adult video store "The Poophole vs. Larry Flynt", while "Long Day's Journey into Shite" entitles the tale of an early morning highway dash for the nearest rest stop. 54 In the face of the PoopReport pun-making machine, neither Hollywood blockbuster nor high culture text escapes.

Literary critics have traditionally seen this kind of wordplay as ambivalent, a symbolic surfeit that can be read as either abject or carnivalesque. In line with Richard A. Barney's description of puns as "language's trash makers", 55 a Kristevan critic might argue that in placing both content and form in service of the scatological, poop stories satirize cultural anxieties particular to time and place -- there being, for instance, numerous post-9/11 stories that play with metaphors of national security ("Terror Alert: Code Brown"). A Bakhtinian critic might just as easily and legitimately make the argument that as befits the "exaggeration, hyperbolism [and] excessiveness" of the "grotesque style", 56 PoopReport's neologistic flair and enumeration of synonyms mixes word and turd in a carnivalesque degradation of the language of high culture. I would argue, however, that a better way to read the formal shamelessness of the poop story -- one that resists a view of wordplay as unassimilable "excess" -- is via the concept of language Gary Snyder proffers in "Language Goes Two Ways", an essay from A Place In Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds (1995). In this essay, Snyder denies that the task of language, as the supposed evidence of a uniquely human intelligence, is to "bring order to the 'chaos' of the world". 57 Snyder asserts that such a view overlooks the fact that while the world -- "nature" -- is certainly unpredictable, it nonetheless is "patterned according to its own devices". What the industrial West has therefore seen as "wildness" or "chaos" merely indicates the "self-organizing principle" by which systems tend toward a stabilizing complexity. Furthermore, the perspective which holds that the role of language is to order "nature" misses the fact that language itself, with its tangle of "patterns and syntaxes", is the product of self-organizing processes of philological evolution; language itself, says Snyder, is "wild". Snyder considers wordplay to be an expression of this wildness, describing as "natural language" the written discourse that revels in its "self-generated grammars and vocabularies" like "[c]hildren on the playground chant[ing] rhymes and ... fooling with language". 58 When viewed within a perspective that opposes language and "wildness", then, wordplay appears as symbolic excess, positive or negative by virtue of the superfluity that signals its distance from the text. Snyder's understanding of "natural language", however, enables us to see PoopReport's wordplay as organic to -- a formal expression of -- an orientation to the body that questions the very foundation of a subjective and social economy that sees shit as "excess" and inessential. Through the playful naming and renaming of things, the wordplay of the poop story discloses the habits and practices that industrial shitting closets from knowledge -- but which nevertheless define our relationship to the multiform functions of the body's self-regulation.

Ultimately, the thematic and formal shamelessness described above combine to produce the 'who' of the site, and the center of this analysis: the shameless subject. What delimits this subject, as I have suggested throughout, is not the hardline boundary that constitutes the self as the product of abject or festive externalities, but a porous and shifting line established through a narrative process that reports rather than evaluates the comings and goings of the body. In this respect, the permeable contours of shameless subjectivity do not resemble the cosmic openendedness of the grotesque body so much as the specific and local bioregionalist topographies that Snyder argues for in A Place in Space. In "Coming into the Watershed", Snyder describes the bioregion as a delimitation of space defined by the "porous, permeable, [and] arguable" lines of "climates, plant communities, soil types, types of life" rather than by the arbitrarily fixed crosshatchings of state power. 59 As a conceptual schema that attempts to replace the abstract geographies of political conquest and capitalist ownership with a cartography mapped by a subjective relation to place, bioregionalism calls for people to become reinhabitory: to live in rather than merely on the land, and on that basis to cultivate a sense of belonging to and participation in the hydrological, floral, and cultural habitats that make up their ecosystemic community. It is a call for people to become native to the places they inhabit, for Snyder argues that there can be no responsibility for resource use that is not grounded first in a connection to specific locales. In this regard, the reinhabitory consciousness that delimits bioregionality shares considerable overlap with Berry's argument that knowledge -- of food, place, participation -- is subjectively restorative, the necessary condition for ecological responsibility.

There are clearly parallels between Snyder's bioregionalist vision of space and place and the subjectivity produced through the narration of poop stories. The subject who reports her or his poop is a subject in communication with the self-regulatory processes of the body, a subject whose boundaries -- like those of a watershed -- are porous but stable, drawn through a documentary process that charts the self's responses to the affective properties of shit. One of the primary ways PoopReporters narrate this reinhabitory subjectivity is through a mode of description attuned to the microevents of sensory perception, and in particular to that sensory faculty that a number of theorists since Freud have seen as the crux of the conflict between shit and civilization: the sense of smell. Consider, for example, the following description, excerpted from a story entitled "Dinner Returns":

The dinner was great. One of the best I had ever eaten. We had Caesar salad, filet mignon, Shrimp Alexander, red potatoes with onion, asparagus and cheese cake. And, of course, beer. ... The next morning I was feeling pretty good, not too hung over. My stomach was growling and I was hungry. I went to the bathroom to take a shower. All of a sudden I let out a massive fart that smelled of filet mignon. It smelled wonderful, good enough to eat! Well, over the next several hours, I farted my ass off and then finished it off with a huge "expensive dinner" shit. I wonder, if I was rich and could eat high quality food all the time, would my shit not stink bad? 60

What seems particularly noteworthy about this passage is not the "transvaluation of all values" that enables the narrator to redeem the return of the normally noxious as savory. Rather, what stands out is the narrator's question -- the result of an inhabitory attentiveness to the olfactory that opens the narrator to the body's ability to surprise. Likewise, a story called "Looking After Others" opens with a similar question: "Have you ever wondered what would happen if you ate a big box of chocolate and a shit-load of peanuts, and drank twenty beers in one evening?" The story then relates the answer to this question, describing in one passage the sensory results of a friend's drinking-and-chocolate binge the night prior:
He was in the bathroom for about 10 minutes. When he was finished, I walked into the can. The smell was thick and stuck in my nasal cavity. The shit molecules from the smell seemed to penetrate my snot. I could smell it for hours after the bathroom encounter. 61

In both of these passages, the olfactory plays a central role in linking one orifice to the other. But rather than prompting either immediate disgust or immediate celebration, the smell of shit leads instead to the formulation of a question and the crafting and sharing of narrative. In some instances shit may smell bad; in others it smells good -- but for the PoopReporter what is important is to thickly describe the felt quality of smell, to name its affective properties.

This reinhabitation of the olfactory finds resonance in a passage from Snyder's "The Porous World", in which he describes the experience of crawling on hands and knees, at times "belly-sliding", through the late December underbrush of the Sierra Nevada forests:

So we have begun to overcome our hominid pride and learned to take pleasure in turning off the trail and going directly into the brush[.] ... You go down, crawl swift along, spot an opening, stand and walk and few yards, and go down again. The trick is to have no attachment to standing; find your body at home on the ground, be a quadruped, or if necessary, a snake. ... The delicate aroma of leaf molds and mycelium rise from the tumbled humus under your hand, and a half-buried young bolteus is disclosed. You can smell the fall mushrooms when crawling. 62

Humus, leaf molds, fall mushrooms: the saprophytes and detritus of the forest floor that we miss tactilely and olfactorily in standing upright, in seeing self and world as occupying different strata along a vertical axis of high and low. Snyder's idea of crawling ultimately helps us to distinguish the porousness of the grotesque body from the porousness of the bioregion: where Bakhtin celebrates a reverse sublimation -- a movement from up to down (and back again) -- "up" ultimately remains paramount; the movement is always a vertical one. Snyder, on the other hand, suggests a critical reorientation to space that allows one to move horizontally as well as vertically, along an axis of proximity rather than value. But we should note that Snyder sees crawling as neither moral imperative nor the "natural" order of things. The trick, he says, is to have no attachment to standing, to be able to walk or crawl as the situation demands.

We might say the same of the poop story. Reading PoopReport within a bioregionalist framework does not invalidate other ways of writing, reading or relating to shit, nor does it claim that shit is never abject or transgressive. What it does insist upon is that our relationship to shit be an open one, and that our criticism follow suit. In this way, a bioregionalist perspective arrives at Rushdy's "emetics of interpretation": a hermeneutics of shit whose constructs and frameworks are themselves texts, objects of exploration. Through a bioregionalist perspective, we thus move past a culturally determined response that automatically lumps the scatological into those received categories that contribute to the further discursive, and hence material distancing of shit.

For as Berry reminds us, "how we eat" -- and by extension how we shit -- "determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used".63 If in advanced industrial societies eating and shitting are the twin loci of our subjective alienation from the circulation of matter and energy we commonly refer to as "nature", then PoopReporters -- as do Berry and Snyder -- point the way to those "techniques of the self" 64 by which we might articulate an ethics and economics of proximity. This is not, of course, to suggest that such an ethics is the explicit agenda of PoopReport; even the politics of shamelessness it does espouse cannot be more than an individual, psychological, and textual response to a set of deeply systemic problems. But in its ability to create new forms of relationality to shit, shamelessness questions the cultural and institutional technologies that lead to a distancing of causes and effects -- and thus to a subject who must act in a social and ecological vacuum, isolated from a knowledge of her or his impact on the world. Though it cannot be called an act of conscious resistance, then, PoopReport's narrative shamelessness nonetheless bespeaks a kind of unrequited political longing: for alternate ways of conceptualizing bodily and social economy, for agency and connection to place. And if, I would argue, we know what to look for, we may discover in this desire the seeds for its actualization.

-- M. Cortez

Works Cited Anspaugh, Kelly. "Powers of Ordure: James Joyce and the Excremental Vision(s)." Mosaic 27, no. 1 (1994): 73-100.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Translated by Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Barney, Richard A. "Filthy Thoughts, or, Cultural Criticism and the Ordure of Things." Genre 27, no. 4 (1994): 275-293.

Bell, Michael. Mayersfeld. "Deep Fecology: Mikhail Bakhtin and the Call of Nature." Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 5, no. 4 (1994): 65-84.

Berry, Wendell. What are People For? San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990.

Chip Brown. "The Move." PoopReport. 6 Feb. 2002. (14 Aug. 2003).

Dave. "CONTEST #8: The Ideal Celebrity Poop Spokesperson: an Open Letter to Tom Green." PoopReport. 17 Apr. 2002. (14 Aug. 2003).

Dave J.. "Splash of the Titans." PoopReport. 27 Nov. 2002. (27 Aug. 2003).

DeVayga, Dayna. "Wall of Shame." PoopReport. 12 Jun. 2003. (27 Aug. 2003).

Doniker. "Dinner Returns." PoopReport. 9 Sept. 2002. (14 Aug. 2003).

G Ras, "Constipation," PoopReport. 20 Dec. 2001. (14 Aug. 2003).

Hawkins, Gay. "Down the Drain: Shit and the Politics of Disturbance." In Culture and Waste. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.
---. "Plastic Bags: Living With Rubbish." International Journal of Cultural Studies 4, no. 1 (2001): 5-23.

Hawkins, Gay and Stephen Muecke. "Introduction: Cultural Economies of Waste." In Culture and Waste. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.

Hochman, Jhan. "Green Cultural Studies: An Introductory Critique of an Emerging Discipline." Mosaic 30, no. 1 (1997): 81-96.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Mad Shittah. "The Rising Tide." PoopReport. 20 May 2003. (27 Aug. 2003).

Mastercrapper. "Terror Alert: Code Brown." PoopReport. 3 Mar. 2003. (27 Aug. 2003).

Moser, Walter. "The Acculturation of Waste." In Waste-Site Stories: the Recycling of Memory, edited by Brian Neville and Johanne Villeneuve. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

Pooperscooper, quoted by Dave. "PoopReport FAQ." PoopReport. 3 Jun. 2003. (14 Aug. 2003).

PoopReport Homepage, (14 Aug. 2003).

Princen, Thomas. "Distancing: Consumption and the Severance of Feedback." In Confronting Consumption, edited by Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, and Ken Conca. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2002.

Rushdy, Ashraf H.A.. "A New Emetics of Interpretation: Swift, His Critics, and the Alimentary Canal." Mosaic 24, no. 3-4 (1991): 1-32.

Skiddy Poo and Dakota. "The Courtesy Flush: Gallant or Futile?" PoopReport. 4 Apr. 2002. (20 Aug. 2003).

Snapper. "Looking After Others'." PoopReport. 24 Jan. 2002. " (14 Aug. 2003).

Sir Hanky. "Shell Hell." PoopReport. 28 Mar. 2002. (31 Aug. 2003).

Snyder, Gary. A Place in Space: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds. Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 1995.

Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1986.

The Big Wiper. "The Do-It-Yourself Poop Story." PoopReport. 10 Jun. 2003. (14 Aug. 2003).

The PoopReport Collective. "The Shameless Shitting Manifesto." PoopReport. (14 Aug. 2003).

Tolstrup. "Cricket, Curry, and Cramps." PoopReport. 5 Aug. 2002. (14 Aug. 2003).

Van der Ryn, Sim. The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water. Sausalito, California: Ecological Design Press, 1995.

Vice, Sue. Introducing Bakhtin. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.


1. Richard A. Barney, "Filthy Thoughts, or, Cultural Criticism and the Ordure of Things," Genre 27, no. 4 (1994): 276.

2. Kelly Anspaugh, "Powers of Ordure: James Joyce and the Excremental Vision(s)," Mosaic 27, no. 1 (1994): 84.

3. Jhan Hochman, "Green Cultural Studies: An Introductory Critique of an Emerging Discipline," Mosaic 30, no. 1 (1997): 81

4. Gay Hawkins and Stephen Muecke, "Introduction: Cultural Economies of Waste," in Culture and Waste, ed. Gay Hawkins and Stephen Muecke (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), xiv-xvi.

5. Michael Mayersfeld Bell, "Deep Fecology: Mikhail Bakhtin and the Call of Nature," Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 5, no. 4 (1994): 65. Although it turned out that I didn't use anything else from his article, the title of this essay is nonetheless entirely indebted to Bell's delightful neologism.

6. PoopReport Homepage, , (14 Aug. 2003).

7. Dave, "CONTEST #8: The Ideal Celebrity Poop Spokesperson: an Open Letter to Tom Green," PoopReport, 17 Apr. 2002, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 4.

8. Pooperscooper, quoted by Dave, "PoopReport FAQ," PoopReport, 3 Jun. 2003, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 3-5.

9. The PoopReport Collective, "The Shameless Shitting Manifesto," PoopReport, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 3-7.

10. Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), 19.

11. Ibid., 18.

12. Ibid., 19-20.

13. Ibid., 24-26.

14. Ibid.,12.

15. Ibid., 223.

16. Sue Vice, Introducing Bakhtin (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), 163.

17. Anspaugh, 83-84.

18. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 3.

19. Vice, 163.

20. Kristeva, 4.

21. Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd, 1986), 19.

22. Ibid., 13-14.

23. Ashraf H.A. Rushdy, "A New Emetics of Interpretation: Swift, His Critics, and the Alimentary Canal," Mosaic 24, no. 3-4 (1991): 4.

24. Ibid., 2.

25. Ibid., 8-9.

26. Ibid., 14.

27. Anspaugh, 78.

28. Bakhtin, 12.

29. Anspaugh, 83-84.

30. Ibid., 88-89, 97.

31. Stallybrass and White, 10, quoted in Anspaugh, 97.

32. Anspaugh, 97.

33. Ibid., 98.

34. Ibid., 84.

35. "Permaculture," The Co-Intelligence Institute, , (17 Aug. 2003), par. 6.

36. Gay Hawkins, "Down the Drain: Shit and the Politics of Disturbance," in Culture and Waste, ed. Gay Hawkins and Stephen Muecke (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.), 41.

37. Wendell Berry, What Are People For? (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990), 145.

38. Ibid., 150, 145.

39. Thomas Princen, "Distancing: Consumption and the Severing of Feedback", ed. Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, and Ken Conca (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2002), 104.

40. Ibid., 103.

41. Berry, 148-149.

42. Walter Moser, "The Acculturation of Waste," in Waste-Site Stories: the Recycling of Memory, ed. Brian Neville and Johanne Villeneuve (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 102.

43. Berry, 149, 150, 148; Hawkins and Muecke, xiv.

44. Sim Van der Ryn, The Toilet Papers: Recycling Waste and Conserving Water (Sausalito, California: Ecological Design Press, 1995), 11.

45. Ibid., 11-12.

46. The Big Wiper, "The Do-It-Yourself Poop Story," PoopReport, 10 Jun. 2003, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 1. Unless otherwise noted, all subsequent references to poop stories are from PoopReport.

47. Tolstrup, "Cricket, Curry, and Cramps," 5 Aug. 2002, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 12, 18.

48. G Ras, "Constipation," 20 Dec. 2001, , (17 Aug. 2003), par. 1.

49. Sir Hanky, "Shell Hell," 28 Mar. 2002, , (31 Aug. 2003), par. 5.

50. Three Ply, 23 Jan. 2003, , (14 Aug. 2003).

51. Chip Brown, "The Move," 6 Feb. 2002, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 2-3.

52. Skiddy Poo and Dakota, "The Courtesy Flush: Gallant or Futile?," 4 Apr. 2002, , (20 Aug. 2003).

53. Dave J., "Splash of the Titans," 27 Nov. 2002, , (27 Aug. 2003), par. 5, 8; Mad Shittah, "The Rising Tide," 20 May 2003 , (27 Aug. 2003), par. 12; Mastercrapper, "Terror Alert: Code Brown," 3 Mar. 2003, , (27 Aug. 2003), par. 33; Dayna DeVayga, "Wall of Shame," 12 Jun. 2003, , par. 4.

54. See and .

55. Barney, 280.

56. Bakhtin, 303.

57. Gary Snyder, A Place in Space (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1995), 173.

58. Ibid., 174-175.

59. Ibid. 220.

60. Doniker, "Dinner Returns," 9 Sept. 2002, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 3, 5-6.

61. Snapper, "Looking After Others'," 24 Jan. 2002, , (14 Aug. 2003), par. 1, 12.

62. Snyder, 193-194.

63. Berry, 149.

64. Gay Hawkins, "Plastic Bags: Living With Rubbish," International Journal of Cultural Studies 4, no. 1 (2001): 13.

14 Comments on "Brown Meets Green: the Political Fecology of"

PooperGal's picture

Oh my goodness. This essay is ripe for the "Journal of Irreproducible Results"! What a fine example of verbal diarrhea.

The author gets an A+ for effort and for producing primo quality bullshit.

I am laughing my patoot off. Great shit!

Slim Jim Junkie's picture

This kicks ass. I couldn't read it all, but I enjoyed it.
I always said that some elitist pricks put a stigma on shitting and make it seem like only low people do it.

Poonurse's picture
j 1000+ points

Well, it had lots of big words.

The Big Wiper's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

Excellent work, my academic friend. You've fleshed it out in an even more satisfying manner than the first draft you sent my way some time ago. There is more to this business of shit than meets the eye!

Pulling My Pants Down For Peace, Plop and Posterity!

Commode-O Dragon's picture
l 100+ points

Hmm...well. I'm not so convienced that the author achieves her intended thesis, which is to illustrate PoopReport in the context of ecological criticism. The first half of this paper is basically an overview of criticisms concerning scatological texts (which is basically just shit literature, since the definition of scatological is not mentioned in the paper)in the past. The second section, in which the author uses Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder as a the ecological counterpoint (both are well known writers that write from an ecological standpoint) to what the author describes as the predominant PoopReport writing style, "an investigative, documentary, and journalistic approach that privileges description over evaluation". My problem is the theis of the paper, which is summed up in,

"I wanted to write a paper analyzing PoopReport, and I wanted to do so within a framework that connected the study of scatological cultural texts to an environmentalist perspective (hence the title Brown Meets Green). The way I end up combining these aims is by advocating an ecological reading of PoopReport against what in the essay I call the "dominant framework for reading shit within cultural production".

My concern lies in the elements of Snyder and Berry used for evaluating PoopReport. I just feel that the author was leaning more towards a psychological/cultural criticism of PoopReport, using psycho-self aware elements of Synder, Berry and Freud as counterpoints and I just dont feel that ecological aspects aren't really addressed enough to consider this an exercise in ecological criticism, which again is what is promised by the thesis. Rather, what is addressed is the way Snyder and Berry illustrate how we percieve our bodies and its functions, and that is where the author makes the linkage between those two writers and PoopReport Berry and Snyder are used as illustrations of how we percieve or bodies, not the reality of our bodies, and that is why I question the claim in the thesis that this is an exercise in ecological criticism. Sure, there are numerous elements of ecological thought going around, but I'm just not convienced that there is a definative link in the paper of the relationship between the between humans and nature and how that relates to PoopReport. I think that this would have been much more solid if it had been written with the intention of making this a psychological/cultural critism that focused primarily on the ways we are aware of how our bodies and how its functions are regarded as profane by not only our culture, but also our superego itself. In this context, PoopReport would been as the author interprets it; an experimental society that not only acknowledges bowel functioning, but sees it as a vitally important aspect of it. I feel like this is how the author was primarily trying to analysis PoopReport in the final half of the paper and I believe she would have been better served to have gone that route using Berry, Snyder and Freud. Again, I want to state that I believe that the author did a great job of making numerous valid points about PoopReport, I'm just not convienced that she did so in the context that she intended to.

Commode-O Dragon's picture
l 100+ points

You know, even though I feel like my point was valid, I still feel like an asshole for writing the above statement, because I do feel like there was some excellent scholarship in that paper, and I wrote a 36 page thesis just last December, and I know how much work and effort goes into a work like the one above. Its seriously just a pain in the ass, tedious work, drudging through textbooks for a half hour to find a little quote to justify one single sentence you wrote, I think everyone should applaud M. Cortez for the work above, and be honored that so much thought was put into PoopReport. I still have my disagreements with it, but thats just my opinion. I don't think anyone that really reads this paper can dispute that it is a very well written work.

PooperGal's picture

Commodo, you're entitled to an opinion, and you stated yours respectfully. No worries.

I'm looking forward to reading more "feces theses."

M. Cortez (aka Poopshipdestroyer)'s picture

Commode-O Dragon, no offense taken whatsoever. I actually really appreciate your serious and thoughtful engagement with my paper, and looking back on the essay several months later, I think your criticism is both valid and useful. As you accurately observe, the theoretical intervention I try to pull off here *is* better situated in the realm of cultural theory than in the realm of ecology or environmentalism as traditionally conceived, and I think this has a lot to do with my own training as a literature/cultural studies person. This paper was basically my first stab at trying to bring ecological concerns into a cultural studies context; prior to this paper I had very little familiarity with current (or historical) debates in ecocriticism, and am only now in the process of tackling all of that literature. So you're absolutely right that I could be much more rigorous in defining how exactly the cultural theory part of my paper connects to the ecological part. You're also right that I should have defined more explicitly what I meant by 'scatological'.

On the other hand, one of the things the paper was trying to do was to link environmental studies to cultural studies--two disciplines that traditionally have been suspicious of one another. I wrote the paper for an anthology that is trying to look at possible connections between these two fields (meaning not that my essay will be in the anthology but that I submitted it for probable rejection!) and so part of my attempt here is not only to enlarge the meaning of the cultural to include ecological issues, but also to enlarge the meaning of the ecological to include things like the psychological relations we have to our bodies and the cultural meanings we ascribe to certain forms of embodiment. In other words, my intent was to say, hey, 'nature' is more than the objective nonhuman world that surrounds us; it is also the things our bodies do to regulate themselves as natural systems, which can never be separated from a subjective awareness of the processes and products that make up embodied existence. Thus any useful ecological politics will need to address questions of psychology and culture if it is to understand the subjective basis for material relations to nature.

But I'm saying all of this largely in retrospect. I do agree that I don't really follow through on my argument by showing exactly *how* conceptions of shit affect things on the material or ecological level, so ultimately I think your challenge to make this thread of my argument explicit rather than implicit is a good one. I also appreciate your empathy in terms of how exhausting and isolating academic writing can be...this paper was definitely both.

And BTW, congrats on finishing your thesis...what was it about?

Commode-O Dragon's picture
l 100+ points

I'm glad you took my comments in the way that I intended for you to, I've been thinking about what I said all day long off and on, questioning if I was accurate or just being overtly picky. I read over a lot of sections again in the paper, after reading your comments, and I think I have a better understanding of where you were taking your paper, and what you accomplished with it. I enjoyed the piece, it was well researched and its definately quality graduate level work. Plus, just about any "paper", be it a 1 page response of a doctorate disertation is going to have numerous places in which you say to yourself, "Man, I wish I had thrown in a little more here." or "I should have taken this in a different direction". That aspect of literary criticism makes it both exciting and frustrating, I'm sure you know what I mean.

In regards to myself, I recently completed a senior thesis for my BA in English. It was an examination of the confession as a narrative strategy in Gothic Literature that used psychoanalytical, reader-response and cultural critical approaches. I worked on that thing until 15 minutes before I presented to the English Department and gave an hour and 40 minute talk on it! I mean, I was typing on it 30 minutes before the presentation because I got last second jitters about one section of it. I had to call and tell the profs that I was gonna be a few minutes late because of "traffic" but I was actually standing at a copying machine printing off 3 brand new copies of it while I was on the phone. I was brain dead for a week after I completed it.

Anonymous Coward's picture

this is the shit!!

thehitjmyster's picture

This really is the shit guys i love how M. Cortez wrote this article it has helped me alot..i debate and i made a case off of this article thx..hope i have a good season

martinjnielsen's picture

M. Cortez - I have read your thesis with great
interest! It is really an interesting matter to bring forward in academia! Im studying at the royal academy of fine arts, copenhagen, denmark, and I really hope you read this comment-caus I want to ask for your e-mail! Please write it to my mail: I would be very interested in a mail correspondance with you also to add that I have never read more interesting material than yours, and have a lot of questions, also regarding how I use these matters in my projects. hope you read this-and please let me get your e-mail.
Martin J. Nielsen

the thin brown line's picture
j 1000+ points

M. Cortez,
A fine paper by any and all standards. I'm perticularly impressed by your citing of Snyder (whom I've never read, but must now) and his understanding of nature....(biting lip as I write). If you haven't yet read John Stuart Mill's essay On Nature, it serves as the basis of understanding the concept nature. Mill uses two formulas to make his points.
1. The existence of nature outside human consciousness, and 2. Within human consciousness. Both leading to his conclusion that humans are not removed from nature in any way, thus, everything we do, think, emote, ect. is natural.
Your citing of the carnavalesque took me immediately to Dave P.'s writing on the phenomena.
Will send this out to those who will actually read it.
Again, thanks for your guality research and a most excellent writing style.
Now I must re-read so to know what the fuck you wrote about..wink wink.

Somethin' mysterious made an exit from the gift shop.

Anonymous's picture

This forum is a brighter place thanks to your posts. Thanks!

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