A Civics Lesson, Part II

Day two of jury duty was anti-climatic, but in a good sort of way.  There were no cases, so after taking attendance, the clerk disappeared into his room and left all the prospective jurors to sit cooling their heels in the various blank rooms at the civil court.  I sat wondering how close we were to the legal office where Bartleby did his scrivening.

To pass the time, I read James Holston’s Insurgent Citizenship, which meditates on the forms of differential and inegalitarian citizenship that prevail in Brazil and on the urban social movements that strive to reclaim space and citizenship.  After a few hours of this, I took a break to look at a magazine provided by the clerk to stave off collective madness.  A guy in the seat next to me asked if he could have it afterwards.  We started up a conversation; he turned out to be an artist who designs sacred spaces.  His name is Tobi Kahn; here’s his site.

This was just the sort of random fortuitous encounter that urban life at its best makes possible.  At least in a place like New York, which is not automobile based like most U.S. cities and not fragmented into fortified compounds like many cities in the global South, including the ones that Holston writes of in Insurgent Citizenship.  This set me thinking about Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film Amores Perros and the networked structure of the social that many cutting edge narrative fictions are unraveling. Emergent fictions of the global, Rita Barnard calls them in a recent article in Novel.  In this article she writes about Latin American novelists like the Chilean Fuguet and Edmundo Paz Soldán, as well as British author David Mitchell’s novel Ghostwritten. Globe-spanning narratives that seek to capture a mercurial transnational subjectivity.

Back in the space of the nation, though, the court clerk informed us that the New York Supreme Court had no further use for us, and I fled from the courthouse into the cold sunshine of January.

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