Night spaces: migration, culture and integration in Europe

Overview

  • How are night spaces imagined, produced, experienced and narrated by migrant communities in Europe?
  • This research project considers this question in eight European cities: Aarhus, Amsterdam, Berlin, Cork, Galway, Lisbon, London, Rotterdam.
  • Led by the University of Leiden, the research is a collaboration between teams at University College London, Leuphana University, Aarhus University and the University of Limerick.

Why research night spaces now?

Authorities have historically wrestled with the issue of night-time control, and the hours after dark are often still perceived as harbouring threats to public order and potential criminality. Yet current policy attention to night-time urban cultures and economies, exemplified by the creation of the office of Night Mayor (Amsterdam, 2014) and Night Czar (London, 2016), illustrates increasing interest in the urban night. NITE’s transdisciplinary, humanities-led research will contribute otherwise overlooked evidence on the production, experience and narration of urban night spaces by communities who have mobilised around migrant identities or histories. The researchers investigate these spaces in their material, symbolic and virtual dimensions: traditional public spaces (streets, squares), also in relation to private spaces, alongside semi-public commercial and cultural venues (cultural centres; bars and nightclubs; hotels) and new virtual spaces (digital apps).

In the NITE project we understand night spaces as important sites of crisis and regeneration, memory and heritage, community solidarity and growth; and night-time culture (expressed, amongst other forms, through music, film, digital platforms, performance) as opening up spaces of belonging and intercultural understanding.

NITE takes eight cities of different scales and histories of intra- and extra-European migration as case studies. The University of Leiden team, led by Dr Sara Brandellero, will study Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, through its large Cape-Verdean community, in comparative analysis with migrant groups in Amsterdam. This connects with the study of recent African immigration and cultural practices in public spaces in Cork and Galway, studied by the team at the University of Limerick, led by Dr Ailbhe Kenny. To strengthen the comparative, transdisciplinary focus, we consider the differing use of culture in public spaces and policing practices between the substantial Angolan and Cape Verdean communities in Lisbon and Aarhus’s Syrian refugee groups, studied by the team at the University of Aarhus, led by Dr Derek Pardue. The University College London (UCL) team, led by Prof Ben Campkin, will focus on LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer) night-spaces oriented around migrant identities or histories. These will be contextualised against London’s history as a place of sexual and gender diversity, and recent policy innovations recognising the value of night-spaces to social integration and supporting LGBTQ+ nightlife. This focus on leisure and workspaces will be paralleled in Berlin, where research led by Prof Manuela Bojadzijev at the University of Leuphana examines the connection between night-time spaces and socio-cultural practices, studying migrant labour (South/Eastern European couriers) within the city’s growing digital economy.

Methodology

We study night spaces in particular places and times and with attention to how different experiences are shaped by conceptions of race, gender, sexuality, class and age.

With migration a defining characteristic of contemporary urban life, mobility is key to our understanding of night spaces. Drawing from geographers such as Doreen Massey and Tim Creswell we understand these spaces as mobile junctions of historical, socio-political and cultural layers, in constant transformation; and we conceive mobility as political, considering how people navigate night-time cityscapes according to and defying preconceptions of who is ‘out of place’.

Our research is transdisciplinary and humanities-led in its use of methods of socio-cultural and spatial analysis.

—NITE team.