To laugh or not to laugh... that is the questionRalph Luker on Cliopatria somewhat jokingly informs us of a conference on "The Gendered Construction of Toilets." Hiram Hover laughed. I too laughed. Immediately I conjured up a few witty (inappropriate) quips. Potential subject lines. ("...down the toilet...", "**** happens", ...)
It reminded me of an articlette I read in the Fall 2004 issue of Technoscience (see pages 6-9).
Inside, the article reads
The study of the umbrella and defecation could be framed as a sociological study of how relevant social groups (mostly women) modify the cloth or the spokes of the umbrella in an effort to provide better coverage for the private act of excretion in a public space.
Okay, this could easily parlay into a discussion of the value of postmodernism or colonial or subaltern studies. But I won't go there.
What I do want to note is this. Upon second -- and third -- reflection, maybe it isn't so comical to use toilets (a social space) as an object of study. Something on my Amazon wishlist for a year sounds somewhat similar -- the study of fallout shelters in America. Similar, yes, but somehow, I think we'd all feel, more acceptable.
The up-close study of the small, unseen, commonplace, and mundane can be parlayed into some great scholarship .
AN PSEUDO-ASIDE: Why else would Darwin have devoted 8 years of his life to the study of barnacles? (And to preempt your question, yes, you should listen to the mp3 stream.) That's right. I'm a fan of the microhistory. You got a problem with that?
 I have to confessional here. Blogging does that to me. I haven't read the mundane yet, but I've definitely read about, skimmed it, and have heard it touted by some whose opinions I have great respect for.