The Urban Night is the website of an interdisciplinary, inter-university research project concerned with the nocturnal life of cities. Supported in its initial phases by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, this project studies the urban night from the perspectives of aesthetics, urban policy, social conflict and cultural innovation. The project director is Prof. Will Straw, Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and Professor in the Department of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University.
The full text of the SSHRC Insight Development Grant proposal is available here.
The launch of this project has been inspired by two relatively recent developments. One is the emergence of the night as a focus of rich scholarship by historians, sociologists, anthropologists, art historians and others over the past two decades. Works such as Paris la nuit: Chroniques nocturnes and Evening’s Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe set the night within broad transformations of social, political and cultural life.
Another development has been a range of interventions which have sought to rethink the status of the urban night within economic, governmental and cultural discourse. Governments at all levels across the world have commissioned studies on night-time culture and night-time economies over the last two decades. (See the thumbnail images to the left for a sampling of city-based policy documents.) Initiatives like Nuits blanches, which challenge the normal time-sequencing of cultural events, have proliferated. Citizens, activists and cultural creators have assembled to reflect upon the status of night in their communities.
While this project is rooted initially in Canada, we are in the process of expanding it to include scholars from other countries and to look at international developments in night-time culture.
We acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada and McGill’s Arts Undergraduate Research Internship Award program, which have supported this site and the research on which it rests. We acknowledge the important work of Joseph Henry in setting up and designing this site and the research assistance of Kathryn Yuen.