Night Walks: Perceiving Light and Dark in the Far North

Presentation at the International Conference on Night Studies

The 3rd International Conference on Night Studies organized by the International Night Studies Network (INSN) and the LXNIGHTS Research Group with the institutional support of the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology (CIES-Iscte), the Interdisciplinary Center of Social Sciences at NOVA University Lisbon (CICS.NOVA), the Institute of Sociology — University of Porto (ISUP); and the collaboration of MusicBox CTLisbon.

NOVA University Lisbon, Portugal  

October 5-7, 2022  

Panel: Darkening Cities: Practices, Perspectives, Principles

Elena Adasheva. Night Walks: Perceiving Light and Dark in the Far North

Abstract: The northern environment challenges common imaginaries of the day as bright and the night as dark. In the Far North, a day/night change does not signify a regular drastic alteration from light to dark. In a small town above the Arctic Circle, life depends on seasonal rhythms. In winter, the dark hours are long; people spend a lot of time indoors and rarely leave illuminated urban space. The first sun comes out in January, gradually changing the town’s life. In April, the long hours of radiant sunlight shorten the night, preventing people from sleeping long. Despite the temperature remaining low (-17°C to -25°C), people walk and drive to tundra and sea frequently while the workings of streetlights noticeably decrease. In summer, dark hours disappear while the temperature increases (between +5°C and +15°C) allowing for longer outdoor activities. Experiencing light conditions in the Far North led me to questions about human relations to the place we inhabit, both the town and surrounding landscape, and the ways in which light and dark shape these relations. To explore these questions, I develop a practice of experiencing space by intentionally focusing on light and dark and recording these experiences. I walk at night and notate my sensations, either simultaneously or retrospectively. This practice draws from multidisciplinary literature on light and dark, phenomenology, and ethnographic writing. Probing the (im)possibilities of ethnographic description, this work offers an exploratory approach to the human-environment relations in the Arctic.  

Publication: Book of Abstracts