The contested terrain of documents haunts urban life. Increasingly, life without documents is becoming daunting. Documents determine access to formal networks. Documents also tell stories. Stories of broken lives, fragile tenures, defiant access, combative claims, capacities of negotiation, dreams of mobility and more are part of the hidden transcripts around documents. The labs have been engaging with documents, to be able to narrate the poignancy, dreams and violence connected with the phantasmic world of documents.
A seven page image and text reflection on the sway documents can hold in the biographies of those who live in cities.
Documents as Datelines
One is compelled to forget the layers of time through which one has lived ones life and try to re-enter the present through datelines created by someone else, arrested in documents. The ways of recognition have to be re-negotiated through fractured constructions of identity. NDS, P-98, Comm, Lock. Once you have one identity, you can't be another. The basis by which you live your life is altered. You must live through the portion assigned to you. The settlement is the collective through which life is lived. A survey based on portioning of identities divides this. NDS, P-98, Comm, Lock – the speed at which one would be propelled into the city depended on what inscription has been left on the door. NDS – the “No documents shown” – the tenants and the relative newcomers to Nangla Maanchi, were the first to be evicted, the first to leave Nangla in search of other places, their names and age still not stable."
In this paper, we attempt to reflect on the relationship between documents, lives of people who live in the city, and how documents mediate between the city and its inhabitants. This paper was presented at Sensor-Census-Censor: An International Colloquium on Information, Society, History and Politics, Sarai-CSDS + Waag Society (Amsterdam) + t0 (Vienna) and is also included in the publication, "Sensor-Census-Censor" that emerged from this colloquium.