Anna Lunn is a PhD candidate in sociology, and her research focuses on the role of users and communities in creating and maintaining infrastructure and shared resources, particularly in the context of low-income countries. She is especially interested in how community activism and resource management affects poor families and women’s access to critical resources. Her undergraduate research at the University of Chicago examined community mobilization around potable water resources in Bolivia. Last summer, she conducted research in microfinance lending groups with IFMR Financial Foundation in Chennai, India, and her dissertation will build on this research on rural communities in Tamil Nadu. Prior to her studies at Stanford, she worked as an Associate Economist at the Federal Reserve.
In order to understand the conditions under which social norms change, my dissertation examines the effects of recent nation-wide public policies and social campaigns to end open defecation in rural India. Evaluations of these sanitation programs have found that cash incentives and educational campaigns were moderately successful in incentivizing families to build latrines in and near their homes, but residents with access to private latrines do not use this infrastructure consistently and continue to defecate in the open to some extent. In order to explain this paradoxical finding, I use a comparative case study of two villages in Tamil Nadu with different patterns of defecation behavior. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu is an interesting place to study social norms around open defecation because relatively high economic growth, public investments in infrastructure and the legacy of the anti-caste movement suggest greater openness to social change. Through comparing social stratification, economic mobility and the spread of new understandings of sanitation practices within and between these villages, this study will identify the social factors and processes that contribute to the evolution and maintenance of social norms regarding defecation. Given the health implications of exposure to human waste and the way in which one individual’s defecation behavior impacts his neighbors’ environment, this study explores the role of social norms in promoting public health and community-based collective goods.