What Can a Book Do?: Following a Book through a Literary Controversy and a War The Case of The Bookseller of Kabul.

Kuusela, Hanna. 2010. What Can a Book Do?: Following a Book through a Literary Controversy and a War The Case of The Bookseller of Kabul.. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis discusses Asne Seierstad's intemational literary bestseller The Bookseller of Kabul (2002) and the controversy it created between the Norwegian author and the Afghan family presented in the book. Rather than asking what a book is, this research asks what a book does. It investigates the mechanisms through which a book like The Bookseller of Kabul can produce consequences in the contemporary world. In order to approach these productive abilities of books, the thesis develops an extended notion of the book as a relational and processual set of entities. Consequently, the thesis calls for research, which would take into account the complex relations between what we read and how we are able to read it. Methodologically, the emphasis is on material culture, the social life of the book and the actor-networks the book created as a global commodity. The thesis investigates how different actors and materialities collectively created the book and its consequences. Consequently, it discusses the relations a contemporary literary object needs and builds to other forms of media, to different materialities, to readers and to discourses in order to generate power effects. Because books are highly diffusible objects and enjoy a freedom and a status unthinkable for many other commodities, interventions against a literary bestseller are difficult if not impossible to carry forward. As a consequence, a book like The Bookseller of Kabul can play an unacknowledged role at the times when Westem countries are involved in a war in Afghanistan.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



├ůsne Seierstad, The Bookseller of Kabul

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)



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Date Deposited:

22 May 2020 14:42

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:40



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