Paul Collins

Date of Award


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 122 p.)


Repurposing, Reuse, Recycling, Salvage (Waste & etc.) -- Environmental aspects -- Oregon -- Portland, Environmental protection -- Oregon -- Portland -- Citizen participation, Refuse and refuse disposal -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland, Recycled products -- Environmental aspects -- Oregon -- Portland, Found objects (Art) -- Oregon -- Portland




The Second-Hand Society tells the stories of people in Portland, Oregon who redefine waste by making use of objects others discard. The author spends time in repair shops watching craftsmen hammer and polish broken typewriters, vacuum cleaners and shoes back to life. She follows book scouts, clothes pickers and liquidators as they gather merchandise to resell and spends hours at nonprofits that collect and redistribute unwanted electronics and building supplies. She watches junk artists and fashion designers assemble found objects into display pieces, accompanies Dumpster divers and "freegans" along their regular collection routes and visits the homeless encampment by the airport to see how an entire community of people survives on nothing but reclaimed materials. The members of the second-hand society challenge the traditional conception of things as "broken" or "unwanted" and assert that forward movement and new-new-new is not always optimal. By examining the motivations and practices of the people who make use of our discards and looking at the contradictions they run up against, this thesis develops a more complete understanding of the reality that's possible if we think differently about our waste.


This dissertation is only available to students, faculty and staff at PSU.

Persistent Identifier