Guest Lecture: Robert Shaw (University of Newcastle) on The Fragmenting Frontier of Night in an Urban World
Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 18:00 – 19:30
Maison des Sciences Humaines (MSH), Blackbox
11, Porte des Sciences, L-4366 Esch-Belval
In an area of global connections, increasingly ‘smart’ cities and increased social, economic and political flows, what remains of ‘night’ in an urban context? Does the darkness, solitude and isolation of night persist into the twenty first century? Can night still function as a space for outsiders, dissidents, what sociologists what called ‘the deviant’? And why should night matter to our understanding of the city at all?
In this presentation I will explore these questions by reflecting on the dominant conceptualisation of night as frontier (Melbin, Schivelbusch, Giwazdzinski), offering a sympathetic critique which seeks to retain the value of this metaphor in face of the apparently totalising forces of globalisation. I will argue that the spread of capitalism and strategies of governmentality into the night have caused the nocturnal frontier to fragment, with cities necessarily using night as part of an integrated twenty-four hour system for cities to function. I will align such a spread with debates about ‘planetary urbanization’ (Brenner, McFarlane, Robinson), drawing connections between the spatial transformations identified in that discourses and the temporal transformations about which I speak. Supported by a series of case studies, I argue that night seems to remain as a powerful force in cities for a number of reasons, and that there are several potential benefits for a continued fostering of the nocturnal in our cities. In conclusion, I note some of the future directions that social scientists of the night might explore.