When we donate our unwanted clothes to charity, we rarely think about what will happen to them: who will sort and sell them, and finally, who will revive and wear them. In this look at the multibillion dollar secondhand clothing business, Karen Tranberg Hansen takes us around the world from the West, where clothing is donated, through the salvage houses in North America and Europe, where it is sorted and compressed, to Africa, in this case, Zambia. There it enters the dynamic world of "Salaula", a Bemba term that means "to rummage through a pile". Essential for the African economy, the secondhand clothing business is wildly popular, to the point of threatening the indigenous textile industry. But, Hansen shows, wearing secondhand clothes is about much more than imitating Western style. It is about taking a garment and altering it to something entirely local, something that adheres to current cultural norms of etiquette. By unravelling how these garments become entangled in the economic, political and cultural processes of contemporary Zambia, Hansen also raises provocative questions about environmentalism, charity, recycling and thrift.
- The University of Chicago Press