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Controlling darkness: self, dark and the domestic night

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert Shaw



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Social science research into darkness (and light) has largely focused on public spaces. In particular it has been interested in night-time cityscapes, but also spaces of leisure and rural landscapes. This paper instead turns its eye towards the more private experiences of darkness in the home. In this paper I look to explore the active role that darkness plays in constituting our relation to the home, arguing that it takes on a central role. Drawing on phenomenological arguments about experience of dark, I argue that in darkness the self is rendered more open to the other. The ability to choose the conditions in which this openness to the other is experienced becomes important: where power over this choice exists, openness can be experienced as conviviality or intimacy; where power is absent, this openness is more likely to be experienced as vulnerability. As such, controlling darkness in the home is an act of power. This argument is then explored through a study of various trends in geography and social science research into the home, focusing on how the home can slide between poles of security and protection, and insecurity and danger. Though speculative, this paper seeks to set out new ground for research, and new understandings for existing knowledge about darkness and the home.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shaw R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cultural Geographies

Year: 2014

Volume: 22

Issue: 4

Pages: 585-600

Print publication date: 01/10/2015

Online publication date: 20/06/2014

Date deposited: 07/09/2015

ISSN (print): 1474-4740

ISSN (electronic): 1477-0881

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/1474474014539250

Notes: From Special Issue: Geographies of darkness


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