Send to

Choose Destination
Med Anthropol. 2013;32(2):95-108. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2012.694929.

Recovering a fecal habitus: analyzing heroin users' toilet talk.

Author information

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.


There is a particular silence around the social life of defecation. Little analyzed, rarely discussed in polite conversation, it largely appears only at moments of dysfunction. For active heroin users, digestion is often characterized by such dysfunction and experienced through constipation; recovery, a welcome return to defecating 'normally.' Drawing on interviews with active and recovering heroin users in southern England, we focus on this moment of transition in order to illuminate the experiences and transitions between a dysfunctional, constipated body and 'normal' defecation. We discuss the contrast between candor in talk in active use with the silences surrounding defecation talk in recovery, and analyze these twin shifts within the context of a historical progression within Europe toward ever-increasing levels of masking defecation from social life. Located thus, this analysis of the tipping point between constipation and 'normality,' disclosure and embarrassment, provides a powerful lens through which to view the invisibility of defecation in contemporary British social life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center