Between Gifts and Commodities: "Op Shops" in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Wilson, Valerie Jane
This thesis is a study of how a specific set of exchange relations is constructed, perceived and utilized. The research was conducted within and between specific second hand shopping sites – opportunity or charity shops in Dunedin. The research process included interviews and the transcription of these for data relating to consumers and their behaviours. Field notes were taken and provided a wider context for the research. I conducted the interviews with participants approached in the course of taking field notes. The results from a historical postal questionnaire were collated and added depth to details of the shoppers, the locations of and changes in physicality of the sites. I used a body of literature relating to consumption and consumers. Although there are large tracts of information on capitalist consumption practices and habits the literature on second hand consumption is still a relatively small body of work. While opportunity shops appear as part of industrial/ capitalist society the means of both production and labour could be contested as being outside of capitalist based exchange forms. The basic formula for capitalism is negated in the structure of a charity shop. In all of the sites studied all goods/ stock are donated – profit is then immediate on the sale of the items. The value put on goods by both the managers and the consumers within these spheres of exchange is in contrast to the value of new goods. Thus I looked at how ‘op-shops’ fit within the formal and informal frameworks of acquisition. A new challenge uncovered in the Dunedin sphere of opportunity shops is the instigation of “retail charity” shops. These sites have been opened with the express concern of making profit rather than raising funds for local and national charities. The thesis discusses how these key changes have been promoted by the managers, and how they echo world-wide changes in the charity retail sphere. My results show that opportunity shops have a specific niche in modern capitalism. They constitute a form of recycled consumption – where consumers’ re-value the remains of mass overconsumption. The thesis is about both the economic and social lives of opportunity shops in Dunedin.
Advisor: Leckie, Jacqueline Valerie
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology and Archaeology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Gifts; Commodities; Exchange; Capitalism; volunteers; consumption
Research Type: Thesis