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Dhingra, Kanupriya (2022) Daryaganj’s Parallel Book History. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazaar is a local weekly informal market for used books that has been thriving on the streets of Old Delhi every Sunday for the past five decades, before it was closed by the Delhi Municipal Corporation and moved to a different, more enclosed location, in the summer of 2019, just as I started fieldwork. This thesis explores the bazaar as a parallel location for books, and as a site of memory and possibility. Using ethnography, oral narratives, and rhythmanalysis, I examine (a) the bazaar’s spatiality, its incidental location, dislocation, and eventual relocation; (b) its various participants, the sellers and buyers, their ‘knowledge corpora’, their experiences of the bazaar, and encounters with each other and with the books, and (c) the ‘parallel’ circuits of circulation of second-hand and duplicate books in this market. The question that is central to this thesis, then, is –– to what extent can we call the location of the bookstalls on the pavements, the booksellers and buyers and their knowledge and experience of selling and buying, and the market and circuit distribution of books in the bazaar ‘parallel’ to an official, formal circuit that runs across publishers, bookshops and their sellers and buyers? Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazaar, this thesis shows, runs on a combination of order and chaos. Despite the external and internal forms of regulation and boundary-work, the functioning, structure, and components of this bazaar are provisional and ephemeral. The bazaar derives its element of serendipity from the space of the street. The visually and culturally vibrant aesthetics of this bazaar comprises of booksellers setting up their stalls and pedestrians/book-buyers walking and buying the books arranged either in neat stacks or placed together in heaps. The books that are then ‘found’ on the streets of Daryaganj are a result of what I call ‘double chance encounters’: how the booksellers find books that make way to their godowns and bookstalls, and how readers/pedestrians find these books, at the book market. Metaphorically speaking, the search algorithms that this book market incorporates are marked by characteristics such as ‘accident’, ‘arbitrariness’, ‘unpredictability’, ‘contingency’, ‘wonder’, ‘excitement’, and, ‘randomness’. The find (n.), then, embodies serendipity. However, like one of the booksellers exclaimed to me in an interview: “there is a machinery working behind this market”. This “machinery”, as I call it, is the ‘parallel’ communication circuit(s) of books that the Patri Kitab Bazaar embodies. I introduce three ‘parallel’ circuits –– (1) the ‘traditional circuit’ where used and rare books are sold; (2) the ‘study-material circuit’ which includes syllabus books and their ancillary, ‘out-of-syllabus’ books; and finally, (3) the ‘duplicate circuit’, where, pirated/ duplicate books, or what the vendors call ‘D’ ki kitab are sold in various formats. When removed from the ‘original’ or ‘proper’ Darntonian circuit (1972) as waste, excess, or due to a shift in their utility, there is an alteration in the book’s worth. In their afterlife, so to speak, the books are found at the bazaar in a (recom)modified, parallel format. In this thesis, ‘parallel’, as against the ‘proper’ represents the alternative trajectories, the elasticity of the circulation network, the characteristics of the books, their type, genre, language, structure, spatiality of the market, the nature of the business, and so on. In broader terms, this project aims to fill a gap in the dialogic discipline of Book History. The aim of this thesis is not only to describe the parallel methods and occupants manifested in this market space, but also to theorise it and place it in the contemporary discourses on South Asian Book History and Print Cultures.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Francesca Orsini and Alessandra Mezzadri
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jul 2022 11:24
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council

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