Morality, materiality and mystery : second-hand clothing consumption and practice in a small town in Aotearoa / New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Albany, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Over the last ten years, the popularity of second-hand clothes (SHC) in Aotearoa (New Zealand) has grown rapidly, evidenced by the increase in SHC shops in the country. Ethnographic research was undertaken at a traditional church-affiliated second-hand shop to explore second-hand clothing consumption and practice in a small town in Aotearoa using anthropological methods and approaches. The research was also designed to consider social, economic, and political changes that might account for the increase in SHC popularity and the potential consequences of this increasing popularity. Anthropological theories of consumption and materiality were drawn on to analyse the findings. In Aotearoa, SHC consumption is conceived as a ‘good’ consumption practice associated with charity, not-for-profit fundraising, and increasingly, environmental sustainability. This is reinforced and perpetuated by media accounts that valorise SHC shopping but fail to tell the whole story of the growth in SHC imports and clothing waste. Consequently, SHC have become infused with notions of morality and ethical stance-making practices which do not reflect the realities of trade in Aotearoa. Although SHC consumption is a conscious, intimate, and sentient practice there is a lack of transparency in Aotearoa’s unregulated participation in the global trade of SHC and the problems associated with SHC disposal and waste management. The research identifies a gap in current New Zealand research, policy, and legislation regarding the trade and management of organic and synthetic SHC and the need for greater transparency and public awareness in SHC trade in Aotearoa.