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Special issue article: Geographies of the urban night

Introduction: Geographies of the


urban night

Urban Studies
115
Urban Studies Journal Limited 2014
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DOI: 10.1177/0042098014552933
usj.sagepub.com

Ilse van Liempt


Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Irina van Aalst


Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Tim Schwanen
University of Oxford, UK

Abstract
Academic research tends to overlook what happens when night falls. This special issue aims to bring the
spacetime of the urban night to the fore by asking how nocturnal cities are produced, used, experienced
and regulated in different geographical contexts. Despite local variations and specificities important similarities and ongoing transformations are identified regarding the long-term trends in the formation of the
spacetimes of the urban night. We have structured this special issue on the basis of four important focal
points of research for studying the night: (1) changing meanings and experiences of urban darkness and
nights; (2) the evolution of the night-time economy; (3) the intensification of regulation; and (4) dynamics
in practices of going out. By bringing different sets of literature and theoretical perspectives together this
special issue provides a relational perspective on the urban night.
Keywords
governance, night-time economy, night-time spaces, nightlife, urban darkness
Received July 2014; accepted July 2014

The special place of the night


Night-time has been consistently neglected in
the field of Urban Studies. A major part of
academic work within Human Geography,
Sociology and Planning suffers from nyctalopia: night blindness. Day is often the dominant discourse focusing on urban daily
activities and geographies of everyday life.
Academic research tends to overlook what

happens when night falls. The current special


issue aims to bring the spacetime of the
urban night to the fore by asking how nocturnal cities are produced, used, experienced
Corresponding author:
Ilse van Liempt, Department of Human Geography and
Planning, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University,
PO Box 80.115, Utrecht 3508 TC, the Netherlands.
Email: i.c.vanliempt@uu.nl

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and regulated. This collection of articles is


inspired and partly based on a series of sessions, organised by the guest-editors, about
the geographies of urban nights. The sessions
took place during the Annual Meeting of
the Association of American Geographers
(AAG) in April 2011 in Seattle.
What makes the night so different from
the day? Is it the presence or absence of sunlight, with variations in season and latitude
around the globe (Gallan and Gibson, 2011:
2510)? Robert Williams (2008) has already
pointed out that the night is much more
than the absence of daylight. He emphasised
that, when night falls, a variety of practices
and emotions gain traction within a particular spacetime which generate a special
atmosphere associated with particular activities, experiences and possibilities, whether
they entail criminal acts, a rendezvous for
lovers, nonconventional behaviours, or
organizing rebellion (Williams, 2008: 518).
Murray Melbin (1978, 1987), a pioneer in
research on the sociology and geography of
the night, found that people relate differently to each other at night because nighttime has a more relaxed and permissive
social atmosphere than the day as a result of
an easing of the flows and pressures of the
city. In his study, people reported a feeling
of relief from the crush and anonymity of
daytime city life and a special type of solidarity simply because they share the night
(Melbin, 1978: 16). Urban nightlife has
much potential as a time of social transactions, as a realm of play, as the time of
nobody which is free for ones own personal
development, as a time of friendship, of
love, of conversation (Bianchini, 1995;
Lovatt and OConnor, 1995). All these factors are important social strengths of the
night. They allow forms of sociality and conviviality to emerge that are not normally
encountered during daylight hours.
Other researchers, however, have highlighted the intense, rather than relaxed,

emotional experiences which people may


have at night (e.g. Hubbard, 2005) from
pleasure, excitement and adventure to fear
and distress. Compared to the daytime, the
night offers a time for trying to be someone
the daytime may not let you be, a time for
meeting people you should not, for doing
things your parents told you not to do
(Lovatt and OConnor, 1995). Nightlife
areas with bars and clubs are often emotionally charged spaces offering many chances
for the transgression of social norms that
are taken for granted during the day. It is
therefore not surprising that certain forms
of violent crime, criminal damage and antisocial behaviour are concentrated in and
around nightlife areas (Bromley and Nelson,
2002; Nelson et al., 2001).

Theoretical considerations
In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre
(1991[1974]) was one of the pioneers seeking
to explain how certain activities (especially
illegal ones) came to be permitted in particular areas at night. Williams (2008) builds on
Lefebvres framework and argues that nighttime spaces are socially mediated and constituted: night spaces do not exist prior to, or
apart from, human practices and the attendant social relationships that seek to appropriate, even to control, the darkness. Night
spaces are constituted by social struggles
about what should and should not happen
in certain places during the dark of the night
and who is welcome where (Williams, 2008:
514). The Lefebvrian perspective espoused
by Williams is very useful in understanding
the social construction of the night. The production of nightlife is, however, more than a
struggle over ideas and representations and,
as the contributions to this special issue
attest, other theoretical perspectives can be
brought to bear productively on the social
construction of the urban night. These
include, but are certainly not limited to,

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political economy (e.g. Chatterton and


Hollands, 2003; Talbot, 2004); assemblage
thinking (Brands et al., 2013; van Liempt,
2013); Foucauldian scholarship (Gallan,
2013); actor-network theory (Shaw, 2013);
and a range of theorisations of social practices, encounters and rhythms (e.g. Edensor,
2013; Middleton and Yarwood, 2013;
Roberts, 2013).
More specific conceptualisations of governance have also been employed in studies
of the urban night (e.g. Hadfield and
Measham, 2014; Hadfield et al., 2009; Tadie
and Permanadeli, 2014). Among the latter,
thinking that builds on Foucaults concepts
of governmentality and biopower can be
particularly useful.1 This is, amongst others,
because they highlight that governing can be
undertaken by any agent (and not just the
state) and draw attention to the interplay of
rationalities discourses about human health
and wellbeing, light and darkness, urban
competitiveness in a globalised world, and so
forth that are considered truthful and legitimise certain forms of authority; strategies
for intervention upon the night-time spaces
of the city in the name of wellbeing and competitiveness; and modes of subjectification
through which actors residents and consumers visiting night-time entertainment establishments but also police officers and private
security staff, entrepreneurs and public officials are brought to work on their own
actions in the name of their own wellbeing
and/or that of others, the collective and
indeed the night-time spaces of the city
(Rabinow and Rose, 2006). This perspective
allows the politics of governing the urban
night to be foregrounded, especially if governing is seen as an unfinished process and
ongoing practice that not only co-evolves
with the specific (night-time) spaces in
which it unfolds and on which it bears, but
also helps to constitute socio-spatial differentiation along lines of gender, class, ethnicity,

age, sexuality and so forth (see Legg, 2011;


Rutherford, 2007 for similar arguments).
Nonetheless, since every theoretical perspective comes with its inevitable blind
spots, none can be privileged a priori when
it comes to understanding the urban night.
Any perspective that draws attention to the
formation of urban night-time spaces in the
myriad ongoing and contingent processes
across multiple timescales through which
those spaces obtain stability and change
would seem useful. It is for this reason that
a range of theoretical perspectives feature in
the current special issue. The collection of
articles is united in a focus on the complexity, messiness and local specificity of the formation of urban nights.

Transformations and previous


research
Despite local variations and specificities in
how nocturnal cities are produced, used,
experienced and regulated, there are also
important similarities regarding the longterm trends in the formation of the space
times of the urban night across the global
North and increasingly though by no
means in a linear fashion the South. These
similarities critically revolve around broader
processes of the rise of consumer culture(s),
ongoing commodification, advancing securitisation, and intensifying transnationalism
and the emergence of the super-diverse city.
The equivalent trends in the context of the
urban night are:


The global diffusion of the urban nighttime economy: originating in the UKs
post-industrial cities, strategies to (re)position the urban night in terms of economic opportunity and revitalise (parts
of) city centres, which are underpinned
by rationalities of urban competitiveness
in a globalising economy have steadily

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diffused
through Europe,
North
America and Australasia and are now
also pursued, albeit in modified form, in
cities in the global South (on Jakarta,
see Tadie and Permanadeli, 2014).
Increased regulation to curb the excesses
of the night-time economy in response
to moral panics about binge-drinking
and other forms of intoxication and the
related health risks (Hadfield et al.,
2009; Measham and stergaard, 2009;
Roberts and Eldridge, 2009), as well as
broader rationalities and strategies organised around the perceived need to
obstruct the circulation of unwanted
elements (aggressive, violent visitors)
and avoid the disruption of desired
forms of circulation (consumers who
spend money).
A growth of new forms of consumption
and entertainment in the global North:
whilst youth have been colonising
urban night-time spaces organised
around consumption and entertainment
for several decades, this group is increasingly diversified as a result of globalisation and migration. Ethno-parties, and
the rise of Asian night markets in the
global North, are good examples of the
impact of globalisation on nightlife
trends (Hou, 2010; Pottie-Sherman and
Hiebert, 2013).

These long-term trends are beginning to


be discussed and examined in the existing
academic literature on the urban night in the
field of Urban Studies and cognate disciplines. Going through this multi-disciplinary
literature, we identified four important focal
points of research for studying the night:
(1)
(2)

changing meanings and experiences of


urban darkness and nights;
the evolution of the night-time
economy;

(3)
(4)

the intensification of regulation; and


dynamics in practices of going out.

Changing meanings and experiences of


urban darkness and nights
Urban darkness has long been described in
negative terms for instance, as the dark
side and the forces of darkness have been
conceived as the opposite of that which
enlightens and illuminates. In the academic
literature a similar trend can be identified,
with the exception of the work on illuminated urban landscapes by, for example,
Edensor and Millington (2009) and Edensor
(2013). Electricity entered urban life in the
1880s and spread throughout the modern
cityscape in several waves. Initially confined
to the mansions of the wealthy and to
department stores aimed at attracting customers, it then expanded into public streetlighting schemes and along major transport
routes. The rise of public street-lighting has
been fundamental to new attitudes towards
the urban night (Koslofsky, 2002). Streetlighting was intended to promote law and
order. Bringing light to places of darkness
where fear and crime are presumed to be
common is still considered a widely shared
solution to crime (Painter, 1996) as lighting
tends to reduce the fear which crime engenders (Pain et al., 2006). Very little is known,
however, on how consumers of nightlife
entertainment experience lighting within the
continuously evolving situations in which
they are enmeshed on nights out (see Brands
et al., 2013).
Street-lighting, however, also beautifies
cities, provides convenience and reflects a
new willingness to use the city at night.
Successive technologies of artificial illumination have opened up the night to broader,
more diverse space-making social practices
as the frontier of darkness has been

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progressively pushed back (Melbin, 1987). A


new landscape of modernity has been produced whereby the city is transformed from
a dark and treacherous netherworld into a
glittering
multi-coloured
wonderland
(Nasaw, 1999: 6). As such, electric lighting
has had a decisive impact on the psychogeography of urban space (McQuire, 2005).
Modern illumination has thus transformed
the nocturnal urban experience, producing
cityscapes of regulation, hierarchical selectiveness, consumption, fantasy and imagination. At the same time, it should be
appreciated that local and national and
rhythms and temporalities of illumination
vary enormously (Edensor, 2010, 2012).
Those rhythms and temporalities are one
reason why simplistic dualisms of night versus day and dark versus light are often inaccurate and unhelpful, but there are also
deeper philosophical arguments about why
thinking in terms of absolute oppositions is
misleading. As Morris (2011) insists, the efficacy of both light and dark cannot lie in the
triumph of light over dark. They are both
present in each other. Moreover, darkness
and illumination are loaded with contested
values and are experienced differently. The
meanings and emotional experiences associated with dark/light are also culturally
inflected (Edensor, 2012) and darkness fosters contradictory emotions; it creates a
sense of surrender which is unsettling, but
also a feeling of liberation which can be
uplifting (Horlock, cited in Morris, 2011:
316). What may be a quiet site of gloom for
some may be a realm of terror and suspicion
for others, and what might be experienced
by city planners and club owners as a
brightly illuminated consumption space
might be conceived by marginal groups as a
site of surveillance and exclusion. There is
still much to explore in terms of peoples
appreciation of and experience with dark
and light spaces. Post-phenomenological
work on landscapes within geography is an

excellent field for further research on the


relational understanding of nocturnal
landscapes.

The evolution of the night-time economy


City centres have always had late-night amenities in some form but, since de-industrialisation, concrete policies have been designed
to regenerate post-industrial cities and to
draw the attention of potential newcomers,
tourists and entrepreneurs (Chatterton and
Hollands, 2003). In response to the decentralisation of governmental power from the
national to the local level, cities have become
more proactive in enhancing inter-locality
competitiveness and stimulating economic
growth (Hall and Hubbard, 1996; Harvey,
1989). This neoliberal rationality and strategy gained widespread prominence during
the late 1970s and early 1980s as a strategic
political response to the declining profitability of traditional mass-production industries
and the crisis of Keynesian welfare policies
(Brenner and Theodore, 2002). In the UK in
particular, the discourse and strategy of the
24-hour city was a direct response to the
rapid growth in out-of-town activities driven
by suburbanisation (Heath, 1997). The withdrawal of people into their private spaces
and suburban home-based activities meant
that city-centre nightlife was dominated by
residual groups and users, such as youth
groups, prostitutes and drug addicts (e.g.
Lovatt and OConnor, 1995). The 24-hour
city concept was applied to city centres that
were suffering from a lack of safety and were
declining because they had become spaces
where people work and shop between the
hours of nine and five and that were subsequently abandoned (Heath and Stickland,
1997). The main idea of this strategy was to
attract visitors back into the city during the
evenings and at night-time, and informed by
experiences in continental European cities
which have developed cultural policies to

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revitalise their urban nightlife (Bianchini,


1995) and to develop an evening economy.
The term night-time economy (NTE)
has its origins in the work of academics
associated with the creative cities organisation Comedia Consultancy (1991; Shaw,
2014). The term first gained currency in
urban planning circles in the UK, more specifically in the post-industrial cities of the
north of England. The concept was invented
as part of broader attempts to encourage the
deregulation and development of the alcohol
and leisure industries at night in the early
1990s (Bianchini, 1995; Shaw, 2014). Up
until then, the night was widely considered
as a dead time with little economic potential or market value. The NTE discourse
that emerged in the UK in the 1990s represented the urban night as allowing the citys
economy to be doubled (Bianchini, 1995).
Nowadays, the term NTE is telling with
regard to the obvious links between nightlife, profitability and inter-urban competitiveness (e.g. Shaw, 2010; van Aalst et al.,
2014). With the socio-economic changes
mentioned earlier, neoliberalisation strategies and cities re-inventing themselves as
consumption sites, the NTE discourse has
been widely embraced by policymakers and
city marketing officials, not only in the UK
but also abroad. The term NTE now tends
to refer to the assemblage of bars, clubs,
cinemas, theatres and cultural festivals and
events at night time which are, in a context
of urban entrepreneurialism, supposed to
contribute to urban regeneration and local
economic growth.
Optimism about the potential benefits of
the NTE has, to some extent, been displaced
by growing concern. First, Chatterton and
Hollands (2003) showed that many British
urban nightlife districts are experiencing a
McDonaldisation, where big branded
names are taking over large parts of downtown areas, leaving consumers with an
increasingly standardised experience. The

exclusion of lower-class, non-white and nonmainstream revellers from UK city centres


reflects the homogenisation of the types of
nightlife facility on offer and the spatial
marginalisation of such nightlife spaces as
traditional community pubs, ale houses and
venues playing alternative music both are
a consequence of the branding and theming
of mainstream nightlife by corporate actors
aiming to maximise profits by attracting relatively risk-free cash-rich consumers such as
students and young urban professionals (see
also Talbot, 2007; for critiques, see Jayne et
al., 2008; Latham, 2003). Second, the promotion of the NTE has, in many places,
sparked into being conflicts between nightlife visitors and (gentrifying) residents in and
around city centres (Hae, 2012), often over
noise levels and litter.
Third, attention has been drawn to the
social exclusion of particular social groups
from urban nightlife (Boogaarts, 2008;
Measham and Hadfield, 2009; Schwanen et
al., 2012; Valentine et al., 2010). Class, age
and ethnicity are key axes of social differentiation along which such social exclusion is
organised, while the licensing practices of
local authorities, the programming of music,
drink and entry prices, entry requirements
and marketing techniques of venue owners
(such as the use of online registration and
members-only strategies) in combination
with voluntary self-regulation are important techniques and mechanisms through
which processes of exclusion are enacted
(Boogaarts de Bruin, 2011; Measham and
Hadfield, 2009; Schwanen et al., 2012;
Valentine et al., 2010; Talbot, 2004). Apart
from further work on patterns and processes
of exclusion, more research is needed on the
accessibility of nightlife i.e. the spatial
access, affordability, acceptability and suitability of bars, clubs, cinemas and other
nightlife entertainment establishments for
different social groups in a city. Here too,
special attention should be devoted to

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differentiation along lines of class, age and


ethnicity, as well as gender (on the latter, see
Hubbard and Colosi, 2013; Schwanen et al.,
2012; Sheard, 2011).

The intensification of regulation


The final reason why optimism about the
NTE has been tempered relates to the moral
panics about binge-drinking, substance use
and the related health risks in both the popular press and certain sectors of the academic literature (Hadfield et al., 2009;
Measham and stergaard, 2009; Roberts
and Eldridge, 2009). People who go out at
night are increasingly portrayed as problematic in discourses that involve negative cultural signifiers such as drinking, making a
noise, vandalism and hanging out in groups
(Bromley and Nelson, 2002; Jayne et al.,
2008; Roberts and Eldridge, 2009). Greater
knowledge about the health implications of
drinking (Jayne et al., 2011; Measham and
stergaard, 2009) has increased particular
concerns about excesses of urban nightlife
consumption (Hadfield et al., 2009; Roberts
and Eldridge, 2009) among politicians, academics, journalists, policymakers and parents alike. As a result, urban nights are
increasingly portrayed as spacetimes of
transgressive and anti-social behaviour that
need to be regulated. Discourses of policing,
disorder, alcohol and anti-social behaviour
have come to occupy a very central position
in the regulation of night spaces over the
past two decades (Crawford and Flint, 2009;
Hobbs et al., 2003; Talbot, 2004).
Discourses of disorder, anti-social behaviour and the alcoholisation of urban nightlife constitute a danger for any city that
wishes to appear as an innovative, exciting,
creative and safe place in which to live, visit,
play and consume (Bannister et al., 2006;
Harvey, 1989; Helms, 2008; van Liempt and
van Aalst, 2012). The rationality of urban
renaissance, where city centres are imagined

as safe and comfortable places to live and


consume, is thus competing with the narrative of violence and alcohol-related problems
usually associated with nightlife districts
(Eldridge, 2010). The aforementioned theoretical perspective on governmentality and
biopower can aid in the unravelling of how
the rationalities compete and interact. This is
because it is at the level of strategies for
intervention upon the night-time spaces of
the city in the name of wellbeing and competitiveness that these rationalities are aligned
and reinforce each other: in many cities techniques that follow from the rationality of
violence and disorder are legimitised with
reference to that of wellbeing and competitiveness (see also Helms, 2008).
The perspective of governmentality and
biopower also highlights that the intensified
regulation of the night-time economy needs
to be placed in the context of broader strategies of facilitating the flow and mobility of
people, goods, information and capital
deemed desirable and blocking and preventing risky forms of circulation (with the
latter ranging from viruses, terrorists and
sub-prime mortgages to pan-handling and
the homeless). These strategies of securitisation manifest themselves in numerous sites,
including all kinds of borders (Adey, 2009;
Amoore, 2006; Bigo, 2002) and urban spaces
of consumption, such as shopping malls, leisure complexes and also nightlife districts in
cities. According to Bigo (2002) and other
scholars inspired by Foucault, what is happening is not so much a response to preexisting threats and sources of unease but
rather their active construction and determination in a process involving broad and heterogeneous constellations of social actors. In
the context of the NTE, this has resulted in
the introduction of new forms of surveillance
and preventative safety measures, such as
technologically advanced CCTV systems
and identity scanners used at nightclubs, in
order to keep the unwanted out and make

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consumers of night-time entertainment


behave in ways that are in alignment with
the social codes that are embedded in discourses about health and wellbeing of the
individual and collective that are promoted
by such authorities as the (local) state, the
police and public health professionals. It is
also expected that a reduction of fear, of feelings of anxiousness and of stress will increase
peoples motivation to spend money. The
increasing number of actors having a say
and determining who and what are considered to be unwanted in nightlife districts,
combined with a shift towards more preventive measures (Koskela, 2003), have resulted
in a broadening-up of the category of the
unwanted visitor in nightlife districts and
more people coming under surveillance.

Dynamics in practices of going out


The growth in the NTE and the increasing
public demand for going out in the city and
having a good time at night is not only due
to the aforementioned broad socio-economic
changes and the restructuring of the economy (Chatterton and Hollands, 2003); the
structural transformation of youth as an
(extended) phase of life itself is also an
important societal transformation which has
resulted in nightlife entertainment becoming
very important in the construction of young
peoples identity (Cattan and Vanola, 2013;
Chatterton and Hollands, 2003; Hollands,
1996). Within current youth-oriented nightlife, relatively new groups of consumers can,
however, be identified.
First, students are a growing and dominant group in nightlife areas in certain inner
cities. Their numbers have clearly risen
since the democratisation of access to universities and the expansion in higher education
in the 1960s (Chatterton, 1999; Chatterton
and Hollands, 2002). Studentification
(Hubbard, 2008; Sage et al., 2013), is a
recognised phenomenon in many British

cities. It is a process by which specific neighbourhoods become dominated by student


residential occupation and by which nightlife
venues cater exclusively for students and
their distinctive lifestyles during studentsonly nights or in student-specific pubs.
Students sometimes have a problematic position in nightlife, built on typical stereotypes
represented by the media. Local residents
often complain that the presence of student
groups undermines the viability of neighbourhoods suffering problems of pre-loading
(consuming large quantities of alcohol at
home before going out), noise, vandalism,
vomiting and public urination (Hubbard,
2008; Sage et al., 2013).
Second, the studies of Boogaarts de Bruin
(2011), Bose (2005), Kosnick (2008),
Measham and Hadfield (2009), Talbot
(2007) and Valentine et al. (2010) show that
ethnicity is an important line of division in
urban nightlife districts. The marginalisation
of ethnic minorities occurs through entry
requirements, members-only strategies and
discrimination by door staff. The criminalisation of black music and the refusal of certain clubs to host black-music nights on the
basis of racist stereotypes is a telling example (Talbot, 2007). Research amongst ethnic
clubbers in the Netherlands also showed that
Dutch-Turkish youngsters often defect from
mainstream nightlife because of an experienced lack of belonging and safety
(Boogaarts de Bruin, 2011). And in the UK
it was found that their culture of abstinence
from alcohol tends to exclude many Muslim
youth from the city-centre night-time economy (Valentine et al., 2010). On the other
hand, the increase in the cultural and ethnic
variety of contemporary urban clubbers has
also resulted in some clubs deploying new
strategies with which to incorporate novel
and diverse programming. Instead of arranging all of the parties themselves, clubs
increasingly rent their venues out to external
companies or DJ collectives. These

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collectives bring their own networks to the


club, which makes it relatively easy to ensure
the success of a new style of party. This
changing clubbing landscape has made it
possible for ethnic-event organisations to
arrange their so-called ethno-parties in popular clubs (Boogaarts de Bruin, 2011).
Lastly, girls and women have been identified as consuming night-time entertainment
and leisure spaces in much greater numbers
than before (OBrien et al., 2009). They are
enjoying higher levels of disposable income
than women of previous generations and
increasing numbers of them are choosing to
delay motherhood. Over recent decades,
drinking has become widely more accepted
and women tend to drink more visibly,
although it should be acknowledged that
drinking cultures differ strongly and patterns
are deeply rooted in local and national traditions (Eisenbach-Stangl and Thom, 2009).
At the same time, alcohol consumption
has become more problematised in most
countries in the global North in recent years.
Binge-drinking is one of the most prominent
moral panics today, and women feature prominently in this panic. Their consumption of
alcohol is often seen as unacceptable behaviour and the sense of moral transgression is
stronger when it involves teenage girls and
women in their twenties. According to
Hubbard (2008), such double standards
about the gendering of alcohol consumption
underline that women face more opprobrium
than men when they drink. The impact that
young women have had on transforming the
character and atmosphere of urban nightlife
is huge, in both negative and positive terms
(Chatterton and Hollands, 2003). Hubbard
(2008) shows that alternative nightlife
venues, in particular, offer women comfortable spaces in which they can develop positive
femininities based on a shared search for
pleasure and excitement. Nevertheless,
simultaneously there is a tendency more

specific in mainstream clubs for men to


view women as sex objects or meat
(Anderson, 2009; Hubbard, 2013).
These three examples of relatively new
types of clubber show that it is not possible
to homogenise urban nightlife into a singular cultural form, with one sort of experience
for all. Anderson (2009: 919) found that the
night-time economy in different places in the
global North features highly variable events
and a diversity of nightlife venues. He concludes that nightlife has different layers. On
the one hand, there are commercial places
with popular, mainstream music in so-called
High Streets, described by Chatterton and
Hollands (2003) as brandscapes. On the
other, there are smaller, independent nightlife spaces often located on the fringes of the
city underground scenes (see Gallan, 2013).
Most nightlife venues, however, fall somewhere between the two poles. There appears
to be a need for more research on the heterogeneity and complexity of patterns of going
out, nightlife venues and the subcultures and
scenes oriented around night-time spaces.

Contributions
Our ambition with this special issue is to
deepen our understanding of ongoing and
current transformations in how the space
times of the urban night are produced, used,
experienced and regulated in different geographical contexts. By bringing four sets of
literature together the changing meanings
and experiences of urban darkness and
nights, the evolution of urban night-time
economies, the intensification of regulation
and the dynamics in practices of going out
we provide a relational perspective on the
urban night. The individual contributions to
this special issue examine these transformations from at least one perspective, but some
of the articles are also connected through
cross-cutting subthemes. As explained

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above, the special issue examines those


transformations from a range of theoretical
perspectives.
As a set, the articles extend the existing literature in a variety of ways. They continue a
recent trend in the literature on the night-time
economy to consider a broader range of geographical settings beyond the UK. It contains
contributions on continental Europe (Brands
et al.; van Liempt), North America (PottieSherman and Hiebert) and Australia (Gallan),
as well as Jakarta (Tadie and Permanadeli).
The papers thus demonstrate the potential for
broader theoretical learning and innovative,
critical, reflection across cities and countries
that might seem outwardly differently compare, for example, the important role of
informality in cities such as Jakarta with the
dominance of formal economies and extensive
regulation in UK and Dutch cities but
whose respective experiences speak across theoretical issues (Robinson, 2010). One substantive lesson that can be learnt from the papers
is that the three transformations highlighted
above the spatial diffusion of the night-time
economy, its increasing regulation, and the
emergence of new forms of consumption and
entertainment in the global North do not
occur in thin air. As geographers have argued
so often for domains of study other than the
urban night, space is no passive backdrop
against which general processes unfold. It is
an active force of differentiation, meaning that
any theorisation of the production, use, experience and regulation of urban night-time
spaces needs to carefully balance the general
and the particular, the universal and the context-specific.
The contributions also consider a broad
range of actors and stakeholders in the formation of urban night-time spaces. These include
local authorities (Edensor; Hadfield and
Measham; Hubbard and Colosi; Shaw, van
Liempt); owners and employees of bars, clubs
and other entertainment establishments
(Hadfield and Measham; Shaw); public and

private surveillance agents (Brands et al.; van


Liempt); faith-based organisations (Middleton and Yarwood); and of course the consumers of various forms of nightlife entertainment. Regarding the latter, the focus is not
only on students and/or predominantly white
youth (Brands et al.; Roberts) or people in a
subsequent stage in the life-course (Gallan),
but also on consumers from specific ethnic
backgrounds, as in the contribution by PottieSherman and Hiebert.
This special issue consists of 11 substantive
papers which can be grouped into the four
broader themes identified and introduced
above, and set out below. A final piece, in
which Phil Hadfield (2014) reflects on the set
as a whole as well as on the individual papers,
concludes the special issue.

Changing meanings and experiences of


urban darkness and nights
In his paper, Edensor describes the historical
and cultural shift from the fear of darkness
towards more positive nocturnal qualities
and experiences. He argues that, rather than
considering the nocturnal and diurnal to be
opposing states, it is more productive and
realistic to develop a relational understanding of these conditions. The importance of
such understandings also emerges from the
paper by Brands, Schwanen and van Aalst in
which responses among young night-time
economy consumers to street-lighting in
nightlife districts in the Netherlands are analysed. These authors show those understandings to be ambiguous and to depend upon
the assemblage of human and non-human
elements in which encounters with streetlighting are enmeshed.

The evolution of urban night-time


economies
The ongoing evolution of the night-time
economy is central to Shaws paper. He

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Van Liempt et al.

11

describes how bridging the gap between the


end of the working day and the start of the
night-time economy has, for a long time,
been the golden goose of urban night-time
policy strategy in many British cities. Using
the case study Alive after Five, which seeks
to extend shopping hours in order to encourage more people to use the city at night,
Shaw explores the planning, translation and
practice of this project in Newcastle-uponTyne, drawing on actor-network-theory and
political economy thinking on neo-liberalism
in the UK. Tadie and Permanadeli show that
a neoliberal way of thinking with regard to
the night applies not only to the UK, but is
also apparent beyond the global North, for
example, in Jakartas nightlife districts. The
authors demonstrate how some leisure
venues in the city resemble others throughout the world when international benchmarks are adopted to prove the modernity
of Jakarta. At the same time, however, the
governing and regulation of urban nightlife
districts is mediated by the local context,
producing unique types of territory and relation. High levels of informality (penertiban
in Indonesian), for example, are characteristic of the processes through which the city
and thus also the night-time city is ordered
and regulated. Additionally, morality and
religion have started to clearly inform governmental action in Jakarta under Islamist
pressure; current public discourse is all
about removing sin from the central nightlife districts of the city.

policies, where many different actors are


expected to collaborate and take responsibility in surveillance assemblages. Brands,
Schwanen and van Aalst show that
responses among young night-time economy
consumers to policing measures such as the
presence of the police, bouncers, or CCTV,
are ambiguous. They found that the number
of police officers patrolling the streets and
the equipment they carried elicited a range
of responses and some ambiguity as to
whether a visible police presence reduced or
intensified fear of crime amongst their study
participants. Hard policing technologies
were often anticipated as signals for future
harm and soft policing was generally welcomed. Middleton and Yarwood explore the
work of one particular soft partner in monitoring nightlife districts in the UK street
pastors. These faith-based regulators, introduced in 2003, provide care in the nocturnal
city to young clubbers who have trouble
standing on their own two feet or finding a
cab, or who can no longer walk in their
high-heeled shoes. As such street pastors are
informally contributing to the wellbeing of
some late-night clubbers. In their article,
Hadfield and Measham explore how negotiations within partnerships between regulators and the regulated take place. They show
how negotiations of compliance increase
trust, the flow of intelligence and effective
responses to crime. But these negotiations
also breed complacency, inaction and regulatory capture that creates obstacles to the
effecting of real cultural change.

The intensification of regulation


In her contribution, van Liempt shows how
a growing diversity of agents is involved in
the process of governing the city at night.
Ordering and surveillance are usually not
undertaken by one set of actors but emerge
out of allegiances and assemblages. Socalled safe nightlife policies fit neatly into
the wider context of integral local safety

Dynamics in practices of going out


Apart from providing geographical diversity
within studies on the NTE, we also identify
a rise in new forms of consumption and
entertainment within the night-time economy of several cities. Pottie-Sherman and
Hiebert provide an interesting case study on
transnational nightlife with their research on

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12

Urban Studies

Chinese night markets in a Canadian suburb. One aspect of diaspora culture finds
itself seriously mismatched with the realities
of life in the suburbs of Vancouver as the
Chinese culture of late day bluntly contrasts with the quiet Richmond landscape
after 6 pm.
What happens at night in the city is clearly
more than just economy, it is also about
meeting others, creating identities and having
fun. Gallan posits that nightlife spaces are
important for cities, and also for the subcultures and music preferences of young people.
This article seeks to revisit Foucaults understanding of the temporalities of heterotopia
by describing the complexities and experience
of marginal space. Based on a case study, the
author defines how going out to the Oxford
Tavern in the Australian city of Wollongong
can be a spacetime in which significant rites
of passage are experienced and remembered.
Similarly, Roberts contribution is about the
social practices of a big night out and adds
an interesting dimension to research on the
geographies of going out. It shows that spatiality plays a significant role in the formation
of drinking experiences, cultures and the production of atmosphere, based on research in
two different British regions about the way in
which young (mainstream) people understand
the city centres at night to be their space
time and as culturally and economically
approved sites for the performance of their
rituals (pre-loading, drinking, bar-hopping,
dancing and late-night snacking). Within socalled drinking circuits, the feeling of territoriality turns out to be very important: being
recognised and respected in an environment
where people behave similarly.
Finally, Hubbard and Colosi explore the
gender dimension of the night-time city in
England and Wales. They argue that the existence of gentlemens clubs at the heart of the
city underlines the gendered nature of the
night-time economy, a spacetime which continues to privilege the male sexual gaze by

putting women on display for mens consumption. The removal of these clubs has
been hailed by some as an important step in
the creation of more gender-equal cities, challenging long-standing assumptions that
womens access to nightlife can only be on
mens terms.
Funding
The authors work on this editorial introduction
and the special issue has been supported by grant
MVI-313-99-140 Surveillance in Urban Nightscapes by the Netherlands Organization for
Scientific Research (NWO). The continued support of Jon Bannister and Ruth Harkin for the
special issue and the effort and patience of the
contributing authors are gratefully acknowledged.

Note
1. Both governmentality and biopower are
understood in various ways in contemporary
social science. Foucault himself understood
the former in different ways, including as the
conduct of conduct (Gordon, 1991: 2) the
activities by any agent to shape the actions of
others and/or the self and as a specific style
of governing others and the self. Biopower
has usefully been defined as a field comprised
of more or less rationalized attempts to intervene upon the vital characteristics of human
existence (Rabinow and Rose, 2006: 197).

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