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Penumbra materialities: the anthropology of time-space in the nocturnal city

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paper

Publication date2015
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventInternational Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) Inter-Congress 2015: Re-imagining Anthropological and Sociological Boundaries - Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand
Duration: 15/07/201517/07/2015


ConferenceInternational Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) Inter-Congress 2015: Re-imagining Anthropological and Sociological Boundaries


Architecture is often understood as the concrete facts of the built environment, material assemblages that enable us to approach the city as both subject and object of narrative and interpretation. It is at once personal, borne of lived and detailed experiences yet universal, shared by many and so as much as we inform it, the city in turn shapes us, to paraphrase Jonathan Raban’s Soft City. The primacy of architecture perhaps not its body in light but the itinerant, fleeting shawl of darkness that recasts our built environment and senses away from the visual. During nocturnal hours the transition and time in our cities becomes elastic and foggy, distinct in many ways from the space and place of everyday life, where we perform various transformations of the line (Ingold 2005), creating vectors (Gatt 2013) that are at once residual in memory yet ephemeral in temporality. Journeys of the night have been the subject of contemporary depictions (Sandhu, 2007) whilst walking as a methodology (Sinclair, 1997; Careri, 2001), has been recently reclaimed by artists, writers and architects etc. As such, much romance ascribed to nighttime peregrinations, the disclosure of clandestine operations and liminal actors, yet the reality often experienced is an atmosphere of blanketed and muted sounds and sights. This muffling of the city extends from the body to the landscape as the buildings are buttoned up and the streets zip together to form long, sinewy paths with seldom activity. The interregnum between day and night flows steadily and permeates all in its wake. To go out into the night is a decisive act. Walking is a primary measure as it reaffirms our relationship to place and movement through space. This paper will draw on extensive empirical data and personal experience in order to contribute to the understanding of the anthropology of the nocturnal city. It will seek to elucidate on the on-going entanglement that occurs at the boundaries of body and urban landscape; day and night; space and materiality.