Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationChicago, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9839
Approve DateApril 30, 2019
Project TitlePickwell, Hanna (Chicago, U. of) "Secondhand Fetishes: Positive and Negative Enchantments of Things in Urban China"
As consumption of secondhand goods becomes popular among China’s growing middle class, anxieties about the unknown pasts of used goods (their past owners, their past use) and their potential negative efficacies (bad luck, haunting, disease) gain traction. Some young urbanites ignore these ‘negative enchantments’ in favor of more positive ones, such as appreciating the “auratic” historicity of vintage goods, or even the capacity to obliquely critique the status quo. Others eschew used things in favor of enchantments of the new, pursuing luxury items, design, and technology. Using mixed ethnographic methods including interviews, home visits, an internship in a secondhand shop, photography, and media analysis, I will examine how differently positioned subjects in Kunming, Yunnan province, and in Beijing, understand and value the qualia of usedness and newness on their quests for novel enchantments and social distinction through consumption.