“Nocturnal inequalities: social practices, uses of space, actors and evolutions of urban spaces during the night”


21-22 Sep 2022 Montpellier (France)

Does night-time constitute a specific moment of urban life? This is the question night studies attempt to answer. The gradual intensification of evening activities highlights continuities between day and night, but the passage from one to the other remains a discontinuous process. The rupture introduced by darkness is associated with anxieties, loneliness, poetry or agitation. In addition, night-time is also associated with social representations and particular activities related to rest, sociability or leisure, but also work and survival. Animated places and districts also differ at night from those of the day and produce fragmented territories: while the frequentation of business districts decreases, the frequentation of festive districts increases and residential districts are marked by a withdrawal into private spaces.

Often considered as a time of risks and dangers, the night is also a time of opportunities, privileged for cultural and leisure outings, social gatherings and festive activities. For others, we must preserve the access to the starry sky (Challéat, 2010) as a resource, and the night is associated with calm, rest or reverie (Paquot, 2000). However, access to these different resources is not equivalent for everybody: different factors relating to representation systems, socio-cultural or economic resources, real or figurative distance from the place of residence, age and gender, etc., lead to strong differences and inequalities in access to these activities. This symposium thus proposes to study these opportunities and risks offered by night-time, while paying particular attention to the conditions of access to these resources or dangers and to their (unequal) distribution within society. How do these temporal inequalities reinforce the social and spatial inequalities already observed?

This call fully encourages research on the non-festive uses of night-time spaces as well as research focusing on the uses of peripheral spaces, whether residential districts or commercial areas. It will also pay particular attention to work relating to non-metropolitan areas, such as intermediate, medium-sized and small towns, or even rural areas. Far from considering night-time as a linear and homogeneous temporality, we invite to be attentive to the distinctions that may exist between the different moments and spaces of the night.

Four (non-exhaustive) tracks are proposed:

Track 1: Nightlife: social practices, uses of space and differentiated experiences

This track initially proposes to deal with the different social practices and nocturnal uses of space. Several studies have already highlighted the strong social homogeneity of outgoers in nightlife venues, voluntarily maintained by some managers (Deleuil, 1994; Chatterton and Hollands, 2003), which can generate phenomena of social exclusion. These venues are mainly attended by young, white people (Chatterton and Hollands, 2003; Schwanen et al., 2012), studying or graduated from higher education (Raphélis, 2022). The significant development of nocturnal activities in certain neighborhoods can also lead to gentrification phenomena and thus more widely exclude the less well-off individuals from these neighborhoods (Guérin, 2018; Jeanmougin, 2019). Beyond the differences in uses, it is more broadly the experience that individuals have of nocturnal spaces that can be questioned, taking into account the emotions they experience.

As part of this symposium, we propose to extend these thoughts by focusing on the different nocturnal social practices, whether festive or non festive, studied from the perspective of socio-economic, racialized, generational and gender relationships (Buford May, 2014; Gaissad, 2020; Deschamps, 2006). It is also intended to study the differences in practices according to the spaces, both those concerned with night-time activities and those of residence. How are the socio-spatial differences in practices developed and how can we explain them? What are the rhythms and places of these social bonds and how are the (un-)links configured at different scales? What makes a social bond at night and makes someone feel affiliated with a social group? How are nights experienced according to the position in the life cycle and the social trajectory of individuals? How do the social representations of actors producing nocturnal activities modify belief systems?

The study and debate on social and spatial exclusion have been widely documented (Paugam, 1996; Mathieu, 1997; Bailly, 1997, Steck, 1998, Atkinson, 1998) creating a field of studies regularly renewed (for example, Donzelot, 2009; Schwanen et al., 2012; Boltanski, 2014). Are these forms of forced withdrawal distinguishable at night? Do they extend to other domains and spaces? Do we observe a transfer of people excluded from festive activities to other more marginal activities or spaces?

Track 2: Evolutions of urban nights in the short and long term

This call also proposes to deal with the historical evolutions that urban nights have undergone, from the establishment of curfews to the development of leisure and services in the middle of the night (Melbin, 1978; Gwiazdzinski, 2005). These developments still need to be clarified: which social activities in particular have developed or have regressed, or even disappeared? Have they reinforced or reduced existing situations of socio-spatial distinction and exclusion?

More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has also generated some transformations. The sanitary measures associated with this pandemic have limited the activities that usually take place at the heart of the night. Have periods of curfew in particular induced a persistent transformation of the representations and practices associated with night-time? Has the prolonged closure of bars and restaurants, and even more of nightclubs, led to a lasting transformation of practices? What about, for example, the boom in the organization of festivities at home? How does the current health crisis lead to redefining the economic model of the nocturnal leisure sector and the social dialogue between stakeholders that structure it? How does it lead to redefining the resources valued to make a territory attractive? How has the health crisis redefined the place of nocturnal leisure in the city and the treatment of public spaces in favour of pedestrians? How have social interactions and, more broadly, nocturnal urban cultures mutated? How does the current health crisis lead to redefining the methods of collective action and the collective narrative about the world of nocturnal leisure? Most of all, are these developments temporary or have they introduced more lasting shifts?

Track 3: The role of night-time governance and public policies in the formation of nocturnal inequalities

This call then invites to question the role that public authorities and private stakeholders (waiters, managers, brewers, media, etc.) can play in the definition of nocturnal uses and especially in the formation of nocturnal inequalities. While night-time has long constituted a “forgotten dimension of the city” (Gwiazdzinski, 2005), new forms of nocturnal governance are now developing. Some researchers have started to show the multifaceted nature of these new forms of governance, often characterized by different ambitions and structuring (Spanu and Mokhnachi, 2019).

We propose to deep the thoughts about these questions. How do these policies affect the uses, social practices and users of night spaces? Which stakeholders are involved (or not) in the development of these policies and how do they negotiate among themselves? What issues remain unaddressed and what are the impacts of these omissions? How are regulatory mechanisms implemented in terms of material (texts and bills, charters, etc.), financial (subsidies, etc.) and symbolic (speeches, information campaigns, etc.) instruments?

However, the night can also be a time of secret organizations, political events and debates, questioning the placing on the political agenda of this object. What socio-political order is implemented at night? Which stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process and which ones are concerned by social transformations? How is citizen action expressed at night? Attention will also be paid to papers addressing the issue of the remembering of these events.

Track 4: The place of the night in the local development process

Historically perceived as a dangerous space and time, the night is now considered by a growing number of cities as an opportunity and a tool for territorial development. It is now often integrated into the framework of economic development policies (Roberts et al., 2006) or tourism policies (Giordano et al., 2018), but also in the development of urban projects (Chausson, 2019; Guérin et al., 2021). However, this approach often remains partial: the night is taken into account only in order to enhance the attractiveness of cities by improving nocturnal aesthetics or developing nightlife (Mallet, 2020). Researchers have shown how this unsystematic and sectoral integration of night-time into urban policies can produce certain forms of inequalities and exclusions (Hadfield et al., 2009). In order to develop these aspects, we encourage communications that can contribute to address the following questions: how do local authorities integrate night-time into urban development policies? How do these policies favour certain practices and populations to the detriment of others? How is the night taken into account by the stakeholders of urban production? How do transformations in public space development practices modify night-time practices? How does the lack of integration of nocturnal issues in urban planning produce unexpected and/or perverse effects?

Keywords: Night, urban space, rhythms, temporalities, inequalities, stakeholders, uses, social practices, governance, public policies, social representations, spatial planning

Submission process :

 Presentation proposals may be written in English or French. They must include a title, an abstract of no more than 400 words, authors’ names and affiliations, 5 keywords and a bibliography. Interested participants may also propose a poster. The languages of communication will be English and/or French.

Proposals should be submitted online, by May 20 at the latest.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write to anr.smartnights@gmail.com


Atkinson, T. (1998), Pauvreté et exclusion, Conseil d’Analyse Économique, Paris, La documentation Française, 139p.

Bailly, A. (dir.) (1997), Terres d’exclusions, terres d’espérances, Paris, Economica, 119p.

Boltanski, L. (2014), « Croissance des inégalités, effacement des classes sociales ? », inDubet, L. (dir.), Inégalités et justice sociale, Paris, La Découverte, p. 25-47.

Buford May, R. A. (2014), Urban Nightlife. Entertaining Race, Class, and Culture in Public Space, New Brunswick, New Jersey, London, Rutgers University Press, 224p.

Challéat, S. (2010), “Sauver la nuit” : empreinte lumineuse, urbanisme et gouvernance des territoires, Thèse de doctorat en géographie, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon.

Chatterton, P., Hollands, R. (2003), Urban nightscapes: youth cultures, pleasure spaces and corporate power, Londres et New-York, Routledge, 304p.

Chausson, N. (2019), Penser la “métropole nocturne” : entre tensions, risques et opportunités. Une première approche des nuits de la métropole lyonnaise à travers le concept de qualité de vie, Thèse de doctorat en géographie, Université Grenoble Alpes.

Deleuil, J.-M. (1994), Lyon la nuit. Lieux, pratiques et images, Lyon, Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 168p.

Deschamps, C. (2006), Le sexe et l’argent des trottoirs, Paris, Hachette, 238p.

Donzelot, J. (2009), La ville à trois vitesses, Paris, Éditions de la Villette, 112p.

Gaissad, L. (2020), Hommes en chasse. Chroniques territoriales d’une sexualité secrète, Paris, Presses Universitaires de Paris Nanterre, 184p.

Giordano, E., Nofre, J., Crozat, D. (2018), « La touristification de la vie nocturne : une nouvelle frontière pour la recherche sur la nuit urbaine », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne].

Guérin, F. (2018). « L’art de cohabiter à Chueca. La fabrique informelle du citadin nocturne. » InGuérin, F., Hernández González , E, Montandon A. (dir.) (2018), Cohabiter les nuits urbaines. Des significations de l’ombre aux régulations de l’investissement ordinaire des nuits, Paris, L’Harmattan 248p.

Guérin, F., Raphélis, M. de, Mallet S. (2021), « Night-time as a strategic referent for an intermediary city: between attractiveness and standardization of the uses », European Planning Studies [En ligne].

Gwiazdzinski, L. (2005), La nuit, dernière frontière de la ville, La Tour d’Aigues, Éditions de l’Aube, 256p.

Hadfield, P., Lister, S., Traynor, P. (2009), « ‘This town’s a different town today’: Policing and regulating the night-time economy », Criminology & Criminal Justice, vol. 9, n° 4, p. 465–485.

Jeanmougin, H. (2018), « Vie nocturne animée : moteur ou frein à la gentrification ? Conflit d’usage et enjeux contradictoires dans le quartier de la Magione à Palerme », Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana, vol. 14, n° 1-2, p. 231-240.

Mallet, S. (2020), Les dimensions temporelles de la fabrique urbaine, Mémoire d’Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches, Université de Lille.

Mathieu, N. (1997), « Pour une nouvelle approche spatiale de l’exclusion sociale », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne].

Melbin, M. (1978), « Night as frontier », American Sociological Review, vol. 43, n° 1, p. 3–22

Paquot, Th. (2000), « Le sentiment de la nuit urbaine aux XIXe et XXe siècles », Les Annales de la recherche urbaine, n° 87, p. 6-14.

Paugam, S. (dir.) (1996), L’Exclusion – L’état des savoirs, Paris, La Découverte, 582p.

Raphélis, M. de (2022), Le côté obscur de la ville. Analyse de la production des espaces nocturnes dans les villes intermédiaires, Thèse de doctorat en géographie et aménagement, Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

Roberts, M., Turner, C., Greenfield, S. et G. Osborn (2006), « A Continental Ambience? Lessons in Managing Alcohol-related Evening and Night-time Entertainment from Four European Capitals », Urban Studies, vol. 43, n° 7, p. 1105–1125.

Schwanen, T., van Aalst, I., Brands, J. et T. Timan (2012), « Rhythms of the night: spatiotemporal inequalities in the night-time economy », Environment and Planning, vol. 44, p. 2064–2085.

Spanu, M., Mokhnachi, Y. (2019), « La gouvernance de la vie nocturne au prisme du territoire : une approche exploratoire des conseils de la nuit à Paris et à Nantes », Bollettino della Società Geografica Italiana, vol. 14, n° 1-2, p. 241-251.

Steck, B. (1998), « L’exclusion ou le repli du territoire progressif », L’Information géographique, n° 2, p. 66-71.

To consult the call for presentations, please click here.

To submit an abstract, please click here.

For further details about fees and registration procedures, please click here.

Manuel Garcia-Ruiz

He is a PhD Scholar at CIES-Iscte and a Research Collaborator at IS-FLUP. He research on topics such as city branding, cultural regeneration, the commodification of arts and culture, art washing, and the construction of artistic fields.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search