Upcoming AUSCCER seminar: Lefebvre’s transduction and becoming crepuscular

I will be presenting a seminar next week as part of AUSCCER’s spring seminar series.

Date: Wednesday 22nd October

Location: Unviersity of Wollongong, Building 41, Room 157

Time: 12:30-1:30pm


Crepuscular literally means to be active at dawn and dusk – distinct from the more familiar categories of diurnal and nocturnal. In my recently submitted PhD thesis, ‘crepuscular’ signalled an agenda to extend beyond the dualistic categories of night and day, the nocturnal and diurnal. In this seminar, I first discuss day and night as a timeless subject of human concern yet one that remains relatively untroubled in scholarly work. In so doing, I pay particular attention to debates about human/nonhuman agency and the work of Nigel Clark. I draw on Clark’s notion of asymmetry to suggest why day and night have been left ontologically secure when compared to other binaries. I then discuss how Henri Lefebvre has influenced my approach to day and night. I review Lefebvre’s concepts of alienation and utopia before offering a detailed discussion of his method known as transduction. For Lefebvre, transduction was a method to suggest utopian, alternate futures that remained in dialogue with the already existing, material world. In this way he proposed the creation of ‘virtual’ objects, that could be developed in relation to the ‘actual’. Lefebvre used this distinction to trace the development of the ‘city’ and the ‘urban’ which, for him, retained different forms and meanings. I use the method of transduction to develop the notion of becoming crepuscular as a critique of daycentrism. Becoming crepuscular is a projection of how future encounters with day and night could be thought and experienced differently.

Please get in contact if you are from off-campus and are interested in attending.

Becoming Crepuscular: abstract on thesis submission day

After four years of hard work, submission day for my PhD has finally arrived! You can read the abstract below. Please stay tuned for more content once the marking and final submission process has been completed.

Bound and ready to submit

Bound and ready to submit

Becoming Crepuscular: rethinking the human relationship to day and night

This thesis is a critical geographic study of the human relationship to day and night. Historical and geographic analysis of one of these two categories – night – has accumulated in the last decade. Such work has explored the diverse meanings and experiences of night, and how they have changed with modernity. In the context of such research on night, this thesis contends that a closer consideration of the binary of night and day is needed. Humanities scholars and social scientists have critiqued binaries since the critical, poststructuralist and feminist turns of the 1970s and 1980s. Thus far, however, the binary of day and night has been remarkably absent from such critiques. This thesis responds accordingly, and provides a new means for theorising the binary of day and night. I develop a ‘crepuscular’ framework as a means to unsettle the seemingly rigid binary of day and night. Crepuscular literally means to be active at dawn and dusk, distinct from the more familiar categories of diurnal (active during the day) and nocturnal (active during the night). In this thesis, crepuscular is a term that signals an agenda to trouble and to extend beyond the dualistic categories of night and day, the nocturnal and diurnal.

An emphasis on the crepuscular is developed through Lefebvre’s theory of transduction. Transduction is a method to propose ‘virtual’, hypothetical futures. Imaginative, utopian futures are seen as increasingly important in the context of current economic and ecological crises. Such conversations tend to speculate on coping with instability, insecurity and uncertainty. This thesis departs instead from a focus on the comparatively stable and eternal cycle of day and night. Beyond the binary of day and night I explore a notion of becoming crepuscular. Becoming crepuscular is a projection of how future encounters with day and night could be thought differently. In becoming crepuscular, this thesis considers what we ultimately might want day and night to mean in our everyday lives. Transduction ensures that such explorations remain rigorous and embedded in existing examples of the material world. I complement the development of transduction with other elements of Lefebvre’s intellectual corpus including the production of space, critique of everyday life, rhythmanalysis and the right to the city. These elements compose an overall Lefebvrian sensibility. A Lefebvrian sensibility seeks to make contributions that are both intellectual and grounded in the experience of everyday life.

This thesis is primarily conceptual in that it seeks to retheorise and refocus existing scholarship that is either explicitly or implicitly concerned with day and night. Conceptual advances are illustrated via a diverse mix of examples gleaned from everyday life: revealing divergent temporalities of day and night between linear and cyclical time; debates about the night-time economy; bringing everyday behaviours, practices and technologies such as sleep and lighting into a specific discussion about day and night’s meaning in our lives; exploring gendered exclusion in the night and calls for the legitimation of nocturnal subcultures; an autoethnographic analysis of the changing experience of day and night for new parents; and exploring the rise of place-based dark-sky preservation. None of these examples constitutes a single case study or central empirical core. Rather, they are woven as examples into a structure that stems from transduction as method. In this structure, the journey from critique of the actual towards the ‘virtual’ horizon takes place through a sequence of encounters with the crepuscular. Conceptual explorations are fleshed out through literature reviews, media analysis, autoethnography, artistic and literary texts and a digital research repository, facilitated through social media.

The cycle of day and night is one of the most dependable aspects of planet earth and has played an integral part in the evolution of cellular life. We are, in many ways, made of day and night. This thesis provokes further consideration of how we want that making to define our future life. In developing a crepuscular perspective this thesis concludes that day and night are full of possibilities for reimagining everyday life.

Memories of rambles past: Hiroshima

Japan, June 2009

I anticipated Hiroshima would be a moving, emotional experience.

The A-Bomb dome at sunset

Genbaku Domu (the A-Bomb dome) at sunset

When I arrived in the city during the Japanese summer of 2009, I checked into a hostel and rambled down to Peace Memorial Park. The park contains a number of memorials dedicated to the victims of the 1945 atomic bomb. I was a somewhat jaded backpacker, expecting much commotion around such a historically significant destination. What I found astounded me.

The view and the sheer significance of the Genbaku Domu was overwhelming to me. Yet locals commuted past on foot or bicycles, calm in the presence of the dome’s shadow. There was not a crowd, busker or street stall in sight. Instead, streams of people went about their quotidian crepuscular ramble. For me, it was intoxicating serenity during the crepuscular hours.

Rambling through the everyday

Everyday crepuscular rambling

A tale of day & night in two photos: Coming full circle

As I near the end of writing my thesis I have found myself back where I started thinking about day and night: The Oxford Tavern in Wollongong.

These photos depict the Oxford during the night and during the day. They don’t represent the night and day of a 24-hour cycle, but a night featuring the Ox at the height of its popularity and a day featuring the deceased material remains of a venue devoid of the social and cultural life that once gave it life.


The Oxford beer-garden ‘before’ (Photo Ian Laidlaw)

These photos are a legacy of daycentrism. The first shows what was the heart of Wollongong’s punk-rock subcultural scene. As one of the scene’s regulars described it, ‘the Oxford was the only place in Wollongong where we felt any sense of belonging, any sense of safety, the only place where a group of misfit, skate punk kids could just be’ (quoted in Gallan 2013). Yet this ‘eclectic freakland’ was not recognised as part of Wollongong’s cultural precinct plan. The Oxford eventually died as a consequence of a failed redevelopment project in down-town Wollongong in which nocturnal cultural expression was marginalised by the daycentric city.


The Oxford beer-garden ‘after’ (photo Ben Gallan)

What was left of the Oxford was a boarded up, abandoned courtyard and pub. The second photo shows the Ox gathering leaves, dirt, empty pizza-boxes and beer-cans thrown over the fence as a memorial, just as one would leave flowers by a loved one’s grave. This photo shows how the Ox looked in the light of day. Decrepit. A hole in the city centre. The irony is, that in pushing nocturnal vibrancy to the margins, an abandoned block remained a part of both the nocturnal and diurnal landscape. Day and night are co-constitutive. One does not exist without the other.

Dark skies as de-alienating? Reflections on Dark Sky tourism

A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Lake Tekapo, on the South Island of New Zealand, to experience some Dark Sky tourism. The area surrounding Tekapo was listed as a ‘gold’ status Dark Sky Reserve last year by the International Dark-Sky Association (something I blogged about previously). This is the second of two posts reflecting on the trip (the other found here).

Dark skies as de-alienating?

One of the major ideas that has drawn me to the Dark Sky movement is a discourse of de-alienation. By this I mean dark skies are often promoted as being a conduit through which people can realise their place on Earth. Viewing an unobstructed night sky is an experience that supposedly helps contextualise the human place in the universe. Our smallness. Our relative insignificance. This process (like other cases of eco-tourism) is thought to promote more holistic environmental awareness. The International Dark Sky Association has released many publications and resources aimed at translating this interest and experience of the night sky into action.

Nocturnal, diurnal, crepuscular skies

I definitely got a sense of how awe-inspiring gazing at such a clear night sky could be in Tekapo. However, I think this is equally stimulating experience anywhere – to sit and watch the sky change hue during crepuscular hours. It is difficult to draw a line where this specifically relates to the night sky and light pollution. As David Weaver has argued Megacaela, or tourism focussed on mega-skies, is a burgeoning industry. Weaver points out these can come in diurnal, nocturnal or crepuscular forms. In that case, Dark Sky tourism is comparable to viewing auroras, sunsets, meteor showers, solar and lunar eclipses, rainbows and clouds. My time in Tekapo was enjoyable also for diurnal and crepuscular skies. The area is stunning, not only for its star gazing, but for cloud formation, wide open vistas and mountainous surrounds.

Tekapo sky during the day. The view up to Mount John

Tekapo sky during the day. The view up to Mount John

Crepuscular transition

Crepuscular transition

Crepuscular/early evening sky.

Crepuscular/early evening sky.

I personally didn’t get a sense of the night sky being drastically different to elsewhere. This, of course, is relatively to your previous experiences. Exiting the bus during the night tour there was a bright object passing over our heads. To me it was obvious this was a satellite; I grew up in rural NSW and seeing this kind of thing in the night sky was nothing shocking. For many in the group though it was startling – too slow for a shooting star, what could it be?!

To get from my house to the Dark Sky Reserve and back I drove about nine hours and flew about six. Given the emissions involved in such a trip, and considering I could travel two-three hours in most directions from my house and see a very limited light pollution, the designation of Dark Sky Reserves I think favour the skies needed for observatories and astronomy much more than the human experience of the naked eye. Humans are seeing stars in the thousands, telescopes in the millions and billions. Being in the Reserve did prompt me to look up more. Perhaps this should be encouraged anywhere? anytime?

Interacting in darkness and weather

The night tour was a good insight into how social interactions can change under cover of darkness. I’ve tried to put myself in this situation a few times during my the process of my PhD, to try and feel more comfortable in darkness, to try and ignore feelings of danger or uncertainty when it becomes hard to see. After getting off the bus, the first 15 minutes at the observatory were amusing in that sense. It takes a good while for your eyes to adjust to darkness, to develop your night eyes. Some people obviously found it hard to balance. There was lots of bumping into each other followed by quick apologies. A few rolled ankles and heads bumped against door frames and telescopes (for more on this, see a recent article by Tim Edensor). One young chap kept thinking I was his Dad. He kept sliding up to whisper questions or comments only to realise his mistake and jolt away in a panic. As the guide that met us at the top of Mount John began his welcome address he had to stop and say – “I can see a lot of you are looking at me. Stop it. You’re not going to be able to see my face, you’ll pass me in the town tomorrow and not realise who I am. You don’t need to be polite. Look up there instead”. We not only needed instruction for safety, but for how best to act attentively and politely in unfamiliar darkness.

During the stay I also noticed a total preoccupation and anxiety around weather. The area for the observatory was chosen some 50 years ago because of its high annual percentage of clear night time skies. The Mackenzie Basin protects the lake and sky in this sense, creating a micro-climate. The mountainous rims of the basin stops bad weather blowing in off the Tasman Sea to the West and the Pacific Ocean to the East. Nevertheless, it is an alpine region, and the weather – wind, clouds, temperature – can change very rapidly. Tour operators mentioned how they’ve had cases where the weather has changed from perfect to dismal in between meeting tour participants in the town and the bus ride to the summit. This has resulted in tears, anger, and near total break downs at the top of the Observatory. This obviously brings in a range of contentious issues surrounding refunds and guarantees.The guides were at pains to issue the disclaimer repeatedly: “weather can change at any moment, there are no guarantees”. Considering this, Dark Sky tourism seems to have a profound affect on opening peoples eyes to the wider cosmos, yet everyday earthly issues of weather can be a profound nuisance and unknown. I found this an interesting interplay and contradiction between the earthly and the cosmological. An notion of asymmetry between humans and both physical earth systems and the universe that plays out in two distinctly different ways.

Prompting imagination

The experience of the night time tour certainly captured imagination in particular ways. Every distance in light years was met with the appropriate ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. I also overheard lots of speculative comments about the possibilities of new planets, alien species, different rivers, oceans, mountains and forests. To this I thought different cities? social relations? economies? The list could be endless. But I feel much more at home here thinking about Earth.  I didn’t get a sense, and I specifically asked the guides this, if the experience prompted people to think in such radical ways about their own planet, or their own cities and nations. What exactly is possible on Earth? On the bus back to town after the tour, conversations had changed quickly to dinner plans, accommodation arrangements and the lord of the rings tour booked for the following day.

So, can Dark Sky tourism and preservation movements open up peoples eyes to new understandings of day and night? Perhaps. Yet without broader consideration of this in the context of everyday life and in urban environments I feel it can only be a relatively narrow stimulant for change. The big challenge, I suppose, remains to translate the experience of the Dark Sky Reserves into meaningful action. The time spent in the Dark Sky Reserve definitely gave me a lot to think about, and it was an inspiring place to think about the night, the day, the crepuscular. Though I went there with this explicit purpose. Even in Tekapo certain notions of day and night remain as rigid or restrictive as anywhere else…

Move along please...

Move along please…

You too...

You too…

Cycling dawns

Sunrise and surfers at Bombo beach

Sunrise and surfers at Bombo beach

My dawn crepuscular ramblings are most often on my road bike. An early morning quest for little traffic, light winds, and low temperature. Getting on the road before the crepuscular transition to the busy and hot day, where the car reigns supreme.

Early morning steelworks

Early morning steelworks

Wollongong and the Illawarra region is conducive to cycling. Escarpment in the West. The Tasman Sea in the East. In between lies a linear geography, with many roads and routes stretching north and south. You can cycle between the beaches, the national park, the city and the steelworks with plenty of climbs into the escarpment and mountains. It’s a fascinating time and place to ride with so many intersecting crepuscular rhythms.

Tekapo’s Night Sky: Experiencing a Dark Sky Reserve

Last weekend I travelled to Lake Tekapo, on the South Island of New Zealand, to experience some Dark Sky tourism. The area surrounding Tekapo was listed as a ‘gold’ status Dark Sky Reserve last year by the International Dark-Sky Association (something I blogged about last week). This is the first of two posts reflecting on the trip.

Tekapo's starry night sky

Tekapo’s starry night sky

Mount John Observatory

Tekapo and the surrounding region has had a much longer association with night sky preservation than last year’s Reserve designation. Mount John Observatory was established above the town in the 1960s. The Observatory is a campus of Canterbury University and has rich tradition of research. It is also currently associated with Nagoya University. They are exclusively in the business of discovering new planets! This drew an excited reaction from participants of the night time tour I took while there. The Dark Sky movement is closely related to astronomy, and I’m sure I’ve never been around so many budding amateur astronomers in my life!

The Observatory has worked with the local council to ensure the town’s light doesn’t impact on the telescopes on Mount John. While there I learnt one of the main telescopes is 1 million times more sensitive than the human eye. So you can imagine how the smallest amounts of stray light can effect the readings. As you can see in the photo below, outdoor public lighting is shielded, so the light is directed down and targeted.

Directed lighting (note the hats on the light poles)

Directed lighting (note the hats on the light poles)

Landmarks like the regions iconic church is not lit up at night (as Wollongong’s lighthouse is in my previous post). This didn’t stop myself and many other nocturnal photograph enthusiasts from trying to capture the church at night, lit up in the headlights of approaching cars.

The Church of the Good Shepherd lit up by car lights passing by

The Church of the Good Shepherd lit up by passing car lights

Once my eyes were adjusted at night on the summit of the Observatory car lights 15-20kms away really did dazzle and disrupt sight. In Tekapo I got a clear sense how particular technologies really increased the efficiency of lighting.

The site had been used for tourism as early as the 1980s. One guide informed me that this had been hugely successful with Japanese markets, but had not attracted tourists from other parts of the world until relatively recently. Currently it is a very busy site housing both research and tourism facilities, and is continuing to grow. There is a cafe at the summit that you apparently can’t move in during the summer months. It was obvious that the Observatory has significantly influenced the designation as a Dark Sky Reserve, and indeed the town’s growth and development for a long time.

Tourism, tensions and unique potential of dark skies

It seems the night sky over Tekapo has been identified as a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for the area by businesses, councils and (some) residents. USPs are often used to promote cities, regions and nations as distinctly different. What can they offer that can’t be found elsewhere? Think of Sydney’s Bridge, Harbour and Opera House, Bilbao’s Guggenheim or the canals of Venice. Thinking about the park designation as a USP it seemed that the Dark Sky reserve had a lot in common with other forms of tourism. It was seen as a means to promote growth and development of the town. It also helped to attract visitors to the region over other areas of New Zealand. This raises all kinds of concerns about how to manage growth and development – issues certainly not unique to Tekapo, or to Dark Sky tourism.

I got to speak to a limited number of small business owners and locals while I was there. They mentioned some apprehension and tension around the park designation. Some didn’t feel involved in the dialogue or process to have the area recognised. For others, there was confusion over what it actually meant. Some wondered if they were going to be asked to install new lighting in their houses or be forced to use curtains on their windows at night. What was required to maintain the area’s status? and how would this be policed? were some questions raised. One person I talked to felt the designation would merely help Dark Sky tourism (possibly) at the expense of other business interests in the area. Tekapo is a major transit point between places like Christchurch and Queenstown but also known for hot springs, an ice skating rink, fishing and the church is very popular for weddings (as Lynda Johnston has written about previously). All the people I talked to felt designation as a Dark Sky Reserve would expand the profile of Tekapo as a tourism destination.

Welcome to the Dark Sky Reserve

Welcome to the Dark Sky Reserve

Ideas of growth and development potential play out in some interesting ways in Tekapo. Whilst I was there I took in both night and day time tours. The day time tour was a bit stretched – being shown around the local area, taking in a few landmarks, learning a bit about the areas grazing heritage and contemporary conservation issues, all before heading back up Mount John. Touring the Observatory during the day time hours is definitely a less stimulating affair. I was participant one of one for the day time tour, and one of thirty for the night time tour! During the summer months numbers apparently swell to hundreds per night. It was interesting for me to see star-gazing operations attempting to unlock the economic potential of the day-time hours. This stands in stark contrast to ideas around the night-time economy and 24 hour city, that seek to tap into the economic potential of night time.

Mount John by Day

Mount John by day

Down in Tekapo, a large sundial is also being built as a centre piece to a huge model of the solar system. Different planets and points of interests are being planned to scatter around the region. Tekapo it seems, for the most part, is embracing all things celestial.

Tekapo's sun dial under construction

Tekapo’s sun dial under construction

The trip has left me a lot to think about. The Dark Sky movement is obviously an emerging concept and mode of tourism. But what broader impact can this movement have? and how does that relate to cities? I’m still thinking that through. It seemed night sky preservation was somewhat contentious, or at least confusing, for a town of 200-300 people. Although Tekapo has a long history of controlling lighting technology this was still a bit of an unknown realm for some residents. I think that was telling in itself.

Please let me know of your own experiences of Dark Sky tourism, and be sure to check in next week when I discuss the Dark Sky movement in debates about human alienation from nature and the cosmos.

Wollongong’s Night Sky

34.4331’S, 150.8831’E

Taking in the sky tonight in Wollongong. This is how it looks…

Wollongong's lighthouse. The glow on the horizon is Sydney

Wollongong’s lighthouse. Looking North to Sydney

The glow on the horizon is Sydney…

Looking up, over the Tasman Sea to the East I was actually surprised by how many stars I could capture…

Looking up and East over the sea

Looking up and East over the sea

There were also a few West towards the city and Illawarra escarpment…

Glow over the CBD

Glow over the CBD

But on the whole, the night sky was fairly obscured. These photos capture far more than the naked eye. This is the night sky as it looks, here on the edge of East Coast Australia: 34.4331’S, 150.8831’E.

Tomorrow I head over to New Zealand. To Lake Tekapo on the South Island: 43.8833’S, 170.5167’E. I’m heading to the small lakeside town of Tekapo to experience the night sky under the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. This particular reserve was designated by the International Dark Sky Association in 2012. It is one of only two reserves to gain ‘Gold’ status (the other is located in NamibRand, Namibia) and is the largest in the world. Dark sky reserves are part of a growing movement seeking to draw attention to light pollution, and they do so by designating vast areas of ‘exceptional or distinguished’ starry night sky.

It will be interesting to compare the difference to the night sky of Wollongong, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Dark Sky tourism operates. I’m also interested to see how these Dark sky reserves are opening up new debates and perspectives on the human relationship to day and night.

Diurnal and Nocturnal Antagonism: a Crepuscular Right to the City?

When Murray Melbin published the Night as Frontier in 1987 he made two broad conclusions. Humans would eventually reach the ‘end’ of night’s frontier. And, antagonism would be ongoing between diurnal and nocturnal populations. In this post I want to explore how these conclusions continue to find relevance in contemporary cities, and how they are becoming articulated through the right to the city debate. I then want to show how I am developing these ideas in my thesis to suggest a crepuscular right to the city.

Melbin's Night as Frontier (1987, the Free Press)

Melbin’s Night as Frontier (1987, the Free Press)

For those unfamiliar with Melbin, I’ll briefly elaborate what he meant. Melbin documented the spread of shift work, lighting networks, aviation traffic, gas stations, restaurants, department stores, radio and television broadcasts across all hours of the night. From this he argued that time was a container, being colonised and filled ‘differently’ in the modern city. So much so that the night could now be considered a new ‘frontier’. The colonisation of night was compared to Westward terrestrial expansion known as the U.S. frontier. For Melbin, both frontiers were characterised by stages of advance, a sparse and homogeneous population, escape and opportunity, a wider range of ‘tolerated’ behaviours, lawlessness, and policies to exploit and regulate. Returning to the first conclusion, the ‘end’ of night’s frontier would not mean the total occupation of every hour, everywhere, but there would be settled patterns of development. At this time “a condition of our ventures is that we must accommodate the course we set in motion” (1987, p. 136). There was, for Melbin, no going back. For his second conclusion, he argued that the ‘daytimers’, or the vast diurnal population, would not tolerate too much intrusion from nocturnal activities, and this would be an ongoing source of tension in urban areas.

Back in present day, and forgetting the antiquated terminology of frontiers, do Melbin’s conclusions continue to find relevance? I’m not convinced about ‘settled’ patterns of development. But cities do continue to see a range of antagonisms between diurnal and nocturnal interest groups. Melbin’s questions endure: how do we learn to live with the consequence of after dark activity? What consensus can there be between diurnal and nocturnal rhythms? Yet the questions are articulated in different contexts.

The night time economy debate, for example, has seen constant tension between using the night to foster economic growth, and desire to maintain order in cities (see Shaw 2012). Pubs, bars and clubs bring taxes and revenues to city and national budgets playing a central role in neoliberal urban redevelopment projects, but they are also criticised for spectacular night time scenes of alcohol, intoxication and violence. So too, for decades the International Dark-Sky Association has raised awareness of increasing levels of light pollution. They argue the night sky is cultural and natural heritage in danger of being denied to future generations – destroyed by unsustainable, inefficient technologies that illuminate our cities for after dark activity.

Very recently these issues have also been articulated through the right to the city.

Laam Hae, for instance, has studied nightlife in New York City. This work is empirically focussed on dance subcultures, and has a broader concern with political representation and gentrification in post-industrialising cities (Hae’s book can be found with Routledge 2012 and articles in Urban Studies, Urban Geography, ACME). Hae has shown how nightlife has been used as a ‘fix’ to promote gentrification, but gentrification has, in turn, changed the nature of NYs nightlife. Hae has documented how this contradiction has led to a greater politicisation of nightlife activities and ‘pro-nightlife’ activism, which serve as a lesson for the right to the city and urban cultural/social life.

In another case, Jason Prior et al (2012) have called for the realisation of a ‘nocturnal right to the city’. Looking at sex premises in Sydney, they characterise the sex industry as a (predominately) nocturnal activity that abrades the dominant moral geographies of the city – framed by notions of privacy, noise and heteronormative family values. The industry, they say, is kept in check through property rights that structure when, where and how it operates (see also Hubbard et al 2013). Prior et al are primarily concerned with property rights, citizenship and sexuality – including the emergence of sexual commons – and the ‘nocturnal right to the city’ is used more in its literal sense than providing a conceptual framework. Yet it is a tantalising and welcomed prospect to develop.

In my forthcoming thesis, I also look to bridge discussions of night (and day) to the right to the city debate (in the broader context of Lefebvre’s work). The right to the city has a convoluted history and development that need not be rehearsed here (see Mark Purcell’s recent commentary/review; also Brenner et al 2011; and Kipfer et al 2013). Lefebvre’s right to the city isn’t only the right to the material, political and social resources of the city as it already exists. It is the right, ‘the cry and demand’, to participate in the future city, to remake it as you see fit. It is a call for greater participation and democratisation of the production of space and the unfolding of urban society.

Over 25 years since Melbin’s conclusions, striving for a nocturnal right to the city, means striving for an equal share of ‘colonised time’. Or in other words, a right to the city that already exists. In my thesis I am instead trying to push concepts of day and night, light and dark, the diurnal and nocturnal dialectically to reveal new ways of understanding the human relationship to both. From this perspective we needn’t see antagonisms around sex premises, dance halls, and the night time economy as inherently different to the concerns of the International Dark-Sky Association. These are symptoms of an inability to adequately relate to day and night in the city. In separate parts of my thesis I am therefore attempting to bring these disparate nocturnal/diurnal antagonisms into dialogue.

A crepuscular right to the city is not then the rights of particular interest groups, which might become broadly defined as ‘nocturnal’ or ‘diurnal’. The ‘daytimers’, as Melbin called them, resisting nocturnal intrusions into their habitual patterns of city life. A crepuscular right to the city reinterprets day and night in the future unfolding of the city, with the impetus to rethink and politicise days, just as much as nights. Redefining and rethinking the human relationship to both day and night as a means to achieve the right to the city.

Forthcoming sessions on light and darkness

2013s Association of American Geographers Conference is fast approaching. As part of this conference Tim Edensor and Steve Millington have organized what promises to be some fruitful discussions on light and darkness.

This continues their exciting new work on cultures of light and darkness that can be found in the journals Sociology; Environment and Planning D; and International Journal of Cultural Policy.

These AAG sessions have been divided into: Histories of light and dark; Rethinking darkness; and Space and the qualities of light. In the preliminary program you can now read the abstracts for the forthcoming papers which covers some diverse ground. Continue reading