Characterizations of Ghanaian societies as “fecophobic” suggest that the use of human feces, for example as an ingredient of organic fertilizer products, is not easily accepted by them. However, empirical evidence on this issue is lacking, despite extensive attention to the potential of feces for such purposes. This study examines perceptions of both human feces and fertilizers based thereon among fertilizer users around Accra. The findings show that although negative perceptions surround fresh human feces, dried or treated feces and their use as fertilizers are generally considered acceptable. Based on anthropological and other literature and empirical data, the study creates a framework for understanding human feces in this geographical context as symbols of personal moral badness. Seeing feces is intimidating; the more perceived feces resemble the beholder's own feces, the more they remind him of his own badness. Dried or treated feces no longer visually intimidate the beholder and are therefore more neutral. There is no “contagion” of negative connotations between these different forms of feces. Changing the appearance of feces is both a physical and symbolic way to take away its “out-of-placeness,” in Douglas' terms, and give it a new meaning as useful artifact instead of bodily secretion.

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