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Shithole rhetorics

Pages 185-201 | Received 17 Dec 2019, Accepted 19 Jun 2020, Published online: 11 Aug 2020


In 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump described El Salvador, Haiti, and the continent of Africa as “shitholes” in a meeting about immigration. This comment, which was readily legible as racist, is situated within a larger toileting discourse that deploys what I call “shithole rhetorics” to further anti-Muslim and anti-queer anxieties. These anxieties cluster around the anatomy and infrastructure of shitholes, i.e., anuses and squat toilets. I examine shithole rhetorics in several Trumpian texts to expose the bizarre role of toileting in U.S. nationalist discourse. Additionally, I examine toileting texts from popular culture that seek to interrupt such shithole rhetorics.


The author would like to thank Abid Kagalwalla for his steady care, and Alison Kafer and Brenda Sendejo for their scholarship, companionship, and uncommon feminism.

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Lamiyah Bahrainwala

Lamiyah Bahrainwala is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and an affiliate faculty in Race and Ethnicity Studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Her research examines whiteness, anti-Muslim sentiment, and terrorism, and has appeared in leading journals including Communication, Culture and Critique, Feminist Media Studies, and Communication and Sport.

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