WATCHING: Secondhand (Pepe)

I want to write about thrifting, both my personal history with thrifting (as war refugees, my family and I spent a good portion of our first decade in the United States in secondhand clothing) plus an analytic of thrifting (as, for instance, a much ballyhooed “recessionista” or “green recycling” consumption strategy). Meanwhile, I’m compiling some resources for teaching the transnational flows of secondhand clothing as both cultural capital and, well, plain ol’ capital.

Most recently, I picked up a copy of a documentary, Secondhand (Pepe), described thusly: “Secondhand (Pepe) is a 24-minute tri-lingual documentary about the role of used clothing in diaspora cultures. Filmmakers Hanna Rose Shell [an assistant professor at MIT in Science and Technology Studies] and Vanessa Bertozzi [a Brooklyn-based documentarian working at Etsy] weave two narratives into a visual and sonic journey. The historical memoir of a Jewish immigrant rag picker intertwines with the present-day story of ‘pepe – secondhand clothing that flows from the United States to Haiti. Secondhand (Pepe) animates the materiality of recycled clothes: their secret afterlives and the unspoken connections among people in an era of globalization.”

I’m pretty excited to watch the entire documentary once Minh-Ha arrives for our intensive writing summer camp. Here is a short excerpt!


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