“‘It will Keep Circulating’: Loving and Letting Go of Things in Swedish Second-hand Markets”

Article by Bohlin, Anna

Using the case of Sweden, this article examines the growing sector of reuse and second-hand activities from the perspective of how people express and practice their relationships to objects that they acquire from second-hand markets. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork in flea markets, second-hand shops, homes and recycling depots, it explores how people relate to and handle goods which, instead of becoming waste, enter new life cycles through reuse. It suggests that buying, using and passing on certain kinds of second-hand things involves particular forms of affection and ‘serial’ care for the objects as things-in-motion. At the same time, part of the attraction of these objects is how they enable the practising of a particular kind of subjectivity: that of an informed, moral and caring consumer. Part of such reuse subjectivity is the capacity to form close bonds with, and care for objects, but also to untie these bonds in order to carefully and responsibly let go of them. The article suggests that paying attention to the affective orientation and disposition that form part of such consumer subjectivity may provide keys to understanding what drives second-hand consumption and the accelerated circulation of goods it may entail. Offering an opportunity to examine assumptions of reuse and circulation as inherently ‘sustainable’, it also provides perspectives on practices of care.

Title of Journal / Edit Volume, incl. names of editors:
Worldwide Waste Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Bohlin, Anna

Research Area:
General Environmental Humanities




URL to website/presentation:

Affiliated but not funded by Seed Box
The Seed Money project “Living With Things”, in which Bohlin et al produced an exhibition with the Swedish Museum of World Culture, has yielded insights in other research projects carried out by Bohlin and Appelgren, but financed by other sources than the Seed Box. In this vein, traces of the Living with Things project can be noted in e.g. the article “It will keep circulating”.