Fieldwork in Serbia
I’m studying the social life of garbage at Belgrade’s Flea Market – Buvljak. At Buvljak people sell everything from screws to iPhones, from old pairs of shoes to brand new, stolen clothes. Many of these objects are literally “trash” that, once put in the makeshift stalls, are rebirthed as “commodities” for sale. Usually the people who sell at Buvljak are members of the Roma community who provide these goods from garbage bins, foreign charity organizations or by smuggling them into the country. Apart from the Buvljak, there also exists a popular, developed virtual flea market on the internet where people from around the country sell belongings they are no longer in need of.
The connection between the virtual flea market and the physical Buvljak is very interesting to me. A lot of people find a way to earn money through buying and selling old clothes at the virtual flea market. They buy old clothes from the physical flea markets for extremely low prices and proceed to sell the same articles on the internet for higher prices. People who cannot, or would not go to the physical flea market to buy “clothes from the garbage”, have no problem with paying more for the same piece of clothing on the internet. Of course there are those neat people who wouldn’t buy second hand clothes, only ‘clean’ clothes from the stores. And usually they are the ones who can afford to throw their clothes when it gets old. Finally, there is also a group of people who do buy clothes from the flea market and are aware of the fact that those clothes might be taken from the garbage, however they would never look for it in the garbage themselves.
These pictures are actually taken recently from the flea market in Skopje, Macedonia where I did short research related to my topic. These photos show how subjects once possessed, needed and wanted are ‘in the phase of garbage’ waiting to be needed and desired again in order to transform into commodity.