This essay argues that the public utility, particularly electricity supply, signifies powerfully as a form of social recognition, a basic human right, and a model of civic inclusion and citizenship in the modern and postcolonial Bildungsroman. James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and centrally, Patrick Chamoiseau's Texaco all connect with one another through a preoccupation with electricity as an akasic medium for the creation of urban imagined communities. The essay further deals with public utilities as a terrain of political struggle from the megacities of the global south (what Mike Davis calls the “planet of slums”) to the banlieues of Paris. That struggle is embodied in the emergent practice of parkour, whose expressions this essay analyzes via their popular dissemination in films such as Distrcit B13 and Casino Royale.
Michael D. Rubenstein; Light Reading: Public Utility, Urban Fiction, and Human Rights. Social Text 1 December 2008; 26 (4 (97)): 31–50. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2008-009
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