Night is more than the absence or negation of day. It is also more than what meets our senses. Night as a social product is mediated by societal relationships and practices, material, discursive, and otherwise.
Indeed, night is more than a time of day. It is also a space (or more appropriately, spaces) in which we live, love, and work. Moreover, night is expressed culturally in often contradictory products. Stories, myths, literatures, and ideologies are filled with references to night: night as a time of repose with its conventional places for leisure and sleep; and night as a time of danger, even horror, with the darkness shrouding—perhaps
My concept of night spaces theorizes a socio-political-spatial dynamic by which we might explain and interpret human interactions and social policies during the nights of the current modern era. "Night spaces," as I described the theoretical framework in 2008, "organize and mediate the societal meanings and uses of the darkness: where to be with whom, and why, as well as what to do and how to do it[,] during the 'when' of darkness." One dimension of the night-spaces dynamic focuses on public and private institutions that attempt to moderate and perhaps control the deterritorializing implications of night. Darkness can undermine guiding norms and practices, thereby facilitating transgressive actions, whether counter-cultural or revolutionary, criminal or morally "suspicious." But in another dimension of the dynamic, night can be understood as contextually mediating the ways in which persons interact with each other, especially and meaningfully in terms of the places at night where they can or should be (or else can come to be). Night clubs, home life, romantic getaways, and the economic revitalization of cities "after hours" all point to the different means—and their attendant spatialities—by which humans, communities, governments, and businesses address the arrival and duration of the dark of night. Night spaces are myriad, contradictory, fearful, recuperative, sublime, multi-relational, consuming, and consumable.
On a personal note, I began in 2000 to formulate a night-spaces dialectic after having worked on the spatiality of politics as it pertained to environmental justice. I searched for and discovered others who had conceptualized night and its consequences for quotidian life: for example, Henri Lefebvre's briefly stated idea of "night-time spaces" in The Production of Space, Murray Melbin's sociological study of the "Night as Frontier", and Bryan Palmer's research on nocturnal social transgressions in Cultures of Darkness. My inquiries led to a conference paper on night spaces that I delivered in 2001 at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Further efforts resulted in works that I published in the journal Space and Culture and in the Encyclopedia of Urban Studies (listed on the Bio page).
This website contains information and materials pertaining to the spatiality of the night. A descriptive overview of night spaces and their dynamics is located on the Concept-&-theory page. The socially mediated complexities of the night warrant more study, which I address on the Further-research page. For examples of literary works in which night is present(ed) in its temporal-spatial dimensions, visit the Literature-&-night-(spaces) page. I list the growing number of freely accessible items on night spaces and related concepts (e.g., the night-time economy) on the
Sapere aude profundē (a scholarly imperative of Kantian inspiration).
— Robert W. Williams, Ph.D.