I am a sociologist employed at Plymouth University in the southwest of England http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/staff/rcoomber. For over twenty-five years I have been researching illicit drug use and drug markets (my primary area of expertise). For around twelve years however (after seeing two young girls ‘gobbing’ in the street in south east London) I have wanted to undertake research into the meaning of spitting. These girls were not simply being ‘filthy’ or ‘disgusting’ (although that is how most would have seen them) they were showing ‘attitude’ and it was clearly normal ‘street’ behaviour for them and their immediate peers. The behaviour thus had meaning beyond its surface appearance.
As a rule sociologists tend not to take the world at face value and while most people (in the West) may view public spitting as disgusting this is not how it is seen everywhere and looking at other cultures and environments is enlightening. My spitting trip around Asia is but one aspect of this research. Spitting can have many embedded meanings: contempt; determination; insult; casual habit; aggression; territorial marking; the sealing of a deal and so on. I thus want to explore further how behaviour that many would consider simply a physical act is in fact shaped by culture, history, politics and individual circumstance.