Robert Shaw, Nuit Debout as Heterotopia: Some Early Thoughts, Blog post (2016)
Since March 31st, protestors in the Place de La République in Paris have been convening every evening, staying in place the full night as part of the ‘Nuit Debout’ protests. The protests, which began in opposition to the ‘Loi Travail’ labour laws, form part of the wider series of anti-austerity, anti-neoliberalist protests by young people in Europe that date back to the Occupy movement. Indeed, ‘Nuit Debout’ translates roughly as ‘here all night’ and this implies a strength and permanence that the term occupy also sought.
These protestors are making several interesting uses of ‘night’. Spending time with people in darkness is more intimate than daylight, as we can’t as clearly distinguish between people, objects and the environment. Ideas, sounds and sensations thus more easily flow between people, generating a closeness. Added to this, the protests have incorporated impromptu concerts, debates and other events, more easily held in night as a time associated with leisure. This intimacy in combination with a relaxed atmosphere creates a moment, space-time for discussion and conversation among strangers. Michel Foucault describes such places as ‘heterotopias’, moments which operate outside of the normal rules of hegemony. For Nuit Debout, the night is key to making this a heterotopia.