History of Shit
|Original title||Histoire de la merde|
|Cover artist||Roland Topor|
History of Shit (Histoire de la merde: Prologue) is a 1978 book by French psychoanalyst Dominique Laporte (1949–1984). It uses an idiosyncratic method of historical genealogy derived from, among others, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Georges Bataille, and Michel Foucault, to show how the development of sanitation techniques in Western Europe affected the formation of modern notions of individuality. Laporte examines this influence through the historical processes of urbanization, the apotheosis of nationalism, practices of capitalist exchange, and linguistic reform.
In the English translation of the book by Nadia Benabid and Rodolphe el-Khoury in 1993, el-Khoury explains how for Laporte, "the history of shit becomes the history of subjectivity" and how his book becomes "a prehistory to modernity and the modern subject" (viii). el-Khoury identifies Laporte's scholarly strategy of joining the ridiculous and the profound as inherently political. Laporte's stated ambition is to "remove a few masks with the roar of our laughter, laugh them off the figures of power" (ix).
In a previous work with Renée Balibar, Le Français national: politique et pratiques de la langue nationale sous la Revolution Française, Laporte studied language reforms carried out in the name of the French Revolution.