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LXnights. Exploring Nightlife and Urban Transformation in Contemporary Lisbon

The urban night is becoming an increasingly sophisticated field of knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. In recent years, a large and growing body of literature has investigated different aspects of the night-time city: from dancing bars, to drugs and alcohol consumption, violence, or alcohol-related road accidents. Recently, researchers have shown an increased interest in a spatial approach to the study of urban nightlife. In particular, these studies call attention to the critical role that the night-time economy (NTE) plays in the urban regeneration and revitalization of historic neighborhoods and deprived areas in post-industrial cities.

Under the current circumstances, where inter-city competition to attract economic investment, creative talent and tourism has become sharper, the NTE has proved to be a valuable asset in the race to place a city onto the global market. This is evident in the case of Lisbon, which is actively promoted by city government and the tourist sector as as a destination for a “big night out”. What is the impact of emergent modes of urban night-life and associated social practices on the spatial, social and economic configuration of Lisbon’s historic areas? How does the NTE relate to the gentrification, touristification and studentification of the city?

LXnights is a collaborative interdisciplinary research project that brings together researchers from different Portuguese research institutes interested in the study of cities and contemporary urban dynamics.

This project takes Lisbon’s urban nightlife simultaneously as its research object and as an analytical lens for understanding wider contemporary urban processes. Focusing on 7 historical areas (Alfama, Mouraria, Intendente, Baixa, Bairro Alto, Santa Catarina, and Cais do Sodré), this project will explore how Lisbon’s new ‘distinguished’ urban nightscapes produce (and are simultaneously a product of) three distinct but interrelated urban processes – gentrification, studentification and touristification. The project will analyze the emergence of new urban nightscapes and how different actors (in the Latourian sense) negotiate common interests and conflicts and develop strategic alliances. Particular attention will be paid to the role of both national and local administrations in this struggle for the night-time urban space, and the policies and regulations that support or encourage the promotion of these new modes of urban night-life. On the other hand, exclusion and inclusion dynamics and the conversion and/or spatial displacement of pre-existing traditional and working-class night-time leisure activities are concomitant to this process [Ha11]. Thus, part of the aim of the proposed research is to investigate how power relations, social exclusion and social sustainability operate amidst the rapid transformation of Lisbon’s urban nightlife.

This project privileges interdisciplinary research, anchored on the unprecedented collaboration of anthropologists, sociologists, ethnomusicologists and geographers with a significant research background and considerable scientific potential. They have been working and thinking in these areas, theoretically, methodologically and politically over the last years, and this project represents an opportunity for the consolidation of a research group that brings together early stage researchers and senior scholars and the development of an innovative line of investigation about the NTE.

For more information you can visit the project’s website here.