Trashion treasure: A longitudinal view of the allure and re-functioning of discarded objects

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Analyses of current reuse movements focus generally on a politics of uncoupling from capitalist consumption traps and commodity fetishism. The perspective presented here considers other motivations by tracing desires for specific kinds of objects, from the past. I consider current reuse debates from a subcultural perspective, of inner-urban living in the late 1970s and 1980s. With the assistance of autoethnography, I delve into this urban subculture, known for its reliance on Do-It-Yourself. This included practices of Do-It-Yourself housing, furnishings, clothing and music, and the reliance on the reuse of preowned materials which, in turn, were often also discarded as part of this transient way of living. I therefore highlight the practice of disposable fast-fashion enabled through reuse. This included the display of ‘tasteless’ object d’art. With my personal history as a backdrop, I highlight the complexity of reuse politics that sometimes reaches beyond anti-consumerist imperatives. Specific reference is made to now highly collectable objects such as ‘Aboriginalia’ and other pieces emblazoned with caricatures of ‘noble savages’. The current collectability of these now rare objects, points to a subtle and often hidden politics of racialised nostalgia.

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Volume 37 Issue 1

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