The nadir point is sometimes reached between 4 and 6 in the morning and represents the lowest level of activity of the human body during the 24-hour life cycle. During that time, I often felt like I was losing my balance and my whole body was getting tired. It was strange, physically and mentally, as if the ground was running from underneath my feet, as if I would ‘hear’ my body ‘screaming’ that it wants to lie down, but I couldn't stop, because I had to carry crates and bags, most of the time with a client in my shadow. I have heard and felt what nadir is for the first time in my life during the nightshift as a night ethnographer.

NOTE: This episode is also available to listen to in Romanian, translated as Tura de noapte and narrated by Romanian actor Daniel Popa.

Original title: "24 - Nightwork: migrant labour and embodied precarity in the global city"

By contrasens is licensed under a  Creative Commons License.

Produced & edited by: Maria Martelli & Karol Pataki Visuals: Maria Martelli Intro & Outro: KindStudios Support contrasens on Patreon:

"How often do we consider the work that goes on at night? How do we think about the ones that make night culture possible, the ones that keep things moving, so in the morning we have fresh vegetables, and deliveries are made? In this episode, Dr Julius-Cezar MacQuarie tells us about his research on migrant and precarious labour in Europe’s big cities. He tells stories from his fieldwork, of his visual methods and of the embodied hardship of night work.

Dr. Julius-Cezar MacQuarie is a nocturnal anthropologist trained at Central European University, concerned with the invisibility of migrant nightshift workers from discussions on today's capitalism. He set up the NIGHTWORKSHOP project to research night work communities in urban spaces. He was a STAR-UBB Research Fellow based at the Centre for Population Studies and wants to extend a special thanks to the Institute of Advanced Studies in Science and Technology at Babeș-Bolyai University for the STAR-UBB generous support in this phase of his research."

Episode approx. rundown:

2:50 - 10:35 - An intro to doing body anthropology and fieldwork during the night 

10:35 - 24:45 - The conditions of night work and its embodied precarity 

24:45 - 33:10 - The forms of engagement of visual methods 

33:10 - 45:55 - Night studies, night culture, migration and safety

45:55 - 1:05:05 - The present and possible futures of night work

This episode is based on the talk that I gave at the 2020 European Association for Social Anthropologists. I was delighted to take part in the first virtual 2020 EASA panel on Ethnography beyond the looking glass. I presented the work that I have been doing as part of the Nightworkshop project designed to research nightwork communities in urban spaces. In this talk I focus on the use of the body in research and the use of cyberethnographic methods to capture the sensorial experiences of a researcher immersed in night ethnography. The audio-visual methods that I have used to bring this information to the mixed audiences includes short ethnographic films and this podcast series, the Nightworkpod. The three short films, Invisible Lives, Nocturnal Lives and Nightshift Spitalfields are available to watch on Vimeo and Youtube or go to Nightworkshop

This work is based on a book chapter due for OPEN ACCESS publication in May 2021. You can read the abstract here.

This podcast episode is based on a talk that I gave as part of Night Modes panel, a NIGHT SCENE Virtual event by UCL Urban Laboratory (London, 2020). The episode is complemented by a video recording, which you can watch here. This talk is about the embodied precariousness experienced by migrant nightshift workers. The findings of this research result from a night ethnography that I did in 2015 in a fruit and vegetable market in Leyton, East London. This presentation, nonetheless, was (video)recorded during the full pandemic lockdown 2020. Apologies for the silence breaks due to the online recording quality. 

Special thanks to Prof Ben Campkin and Jo Marshall, both associated with UCL Urban Laboratory for organising this exciting round of presentations, as part of the NIGHT SCENES event series. To watch and listen to the other guest's talks (by DJ Ritu and Rob Shaw) on the Night Modes panel click here

More about Night spaces: migration, culture and Integration in Europe (NITE) will entail an ambitious programme of community co-designed cultural events and activities, and close engagement with policy-makers, with the aim to positively influence policy approaches on night-time economies, helping to release the potential night spaces offer in creating more inclusive cities. Authorities have historically wrestled with the issue of night-time control, and the hours after dark are often still perceived as harbouring threats to public order and potential criminality. However, current policy attention to night-time urban economies, exemplified by the creation of the office of Night Mayor in Amsterdam (2014) and Night Czar in London (2016) illustrate the increasing interest in the potentialities of the urban night. NITE will contribute with otherwise overlooked evidence on the production, experience and narration of migrant urban night spaces, in their material, symbolic and virtual dimensions. The project brings together five parallel sub-projects mapping night spaces in eight cities in the Netherlands, Ireland, UK, Germany, Denmark and Portugal. Read more ...​​​​​​​

Guest: Marion Roberts, Professor in Urban Design, University of Westminster | UK 

Synopsis: In this third and last episode of the series called “London the Glocturnal City, and its 'other workers' “our first guest, Marion Roberts, Emeritus Professor in Urban Design at the University of Westminster talks about her invested interest and research that she has carried out on various themes related to the night-time city since 2001. Currently she serves on the board of Data and Research sub-committee of the Greater London Authority, the sub-committee on London's night-time commission. Roberts and colleagues (2018) have published a report on the scale and importance of London’s Evening and Night Time Economy that was commissioned by the Greater London Authority, April 2016. The authors (Roberts et al, 2018) report provides a snapshot of London’s evening and night-time economies. It scrutinises the regulatory policies of licensing and planning, investigates crime and anti-social behaviour and drills down into the economic contribution of night-time activities. These outputs helped inform and shape the Greater London Authority’s policy and vision of London as a 24-hour City - 24-hour London – and subsequent publication, From Good Night to Great Night: A Vision For London as a 24-hour City.

Bonus preview of season 2 in the diaries of a nocturnal anthropologist. Coming from the horse's mouth,as it were ... #night #research #nocturnal #london #ethnography #nightethnography #anthropology #nightshift #nightmarket  #sleep #exhaustion #breakfast is #lunchtime #fruits and #vegetables #health #diaries #wellness #food#podcasting #university #mentalhealth #science #work #training #videoseries #education #audio

Welcome to the hidden world of researching the night. Are you a student or seasoned researcher who wishes to take on the challenge to research at night? Or simply curious about the invisible lives of those up and working all night while the rest of us sleep? In this brand new series, I will be sharing with you my fieldnotes, headnotes, audio recordings and video logs on how I crafted this nocturnal ethnography about the people working all night at New Spitalfields the fruit and vegetable wholesale market, in East London. These are just some of the topics that I'll be covering. Basically, in series 2 of the NightWorkPod, I will be talking about my research while I am both the researched and the researcher.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to @candlegravity for permission to use his music according to the CC 4.0 Attribution.

In this third and last episode of the series called "Reflections from Researching the Nightshift", I address the lessons learnt during my research on London's 'other workers' invested in the night shift.

An excerpt from the interview with our guest, Marion Roberts, Emeritus Professor in Urban Design at the University of Westminster offers insights into the problematics with night-time expansion in London. For the full interview go to @nightworkshop on SoundCloud. Some of her important work informed and shaped the Greater London Authority’s policy and vision of London as a 24-hour City - 24-hour London – and subsequent publication, From Good Night to Great Night: A Vision For London as a 24-hour City. For full-text click

In making this series of podcasts about working the night shift I aimed to raise awareness of issues that need addressing in a 24/7 society relying on the workers trapped in its gig economy, at night. This podcast series follows my efforts to disseminate the findings to the academic community, via conferences, working papers, and journal articles. I also used documentary making tool to reach out to political actors, policymakers and stakeholders who have the power to improve the lives of night workers and the issues around isolation, health inequalities, fragmentation and lack of cooperation amongst night shift workers to unionise and demand their rights to decent work.

• Please beware that this episode may contain disturbing content •

In this second episode, two professionals and long-term London residents, a public health practitioner and a fire fighter, share how night shift work impacts on their circadian rhythms, and the challenges that each face according to the nature of the job that they have preformed over the years. Two important sectors of work, health and emer-gency services part of the fire fighting industry rely on professionals working the night shift through rotation. Voice Over by Romanian artist Natalia Carata

EP3 Teaser: I will end this series with one more episode when I invite Marion Roberts, Emeritus Professor in Urban Design at the University of Westminster, whose specialist’s interests are the night-time city and gender related topics in Urban Design.

NightWorkPod: A Podcast About Working the Night Shift

In this episode, Julius-Cezar introduces the listeners to a world of work that is invisible to the diurnal eye and inaudible to the nocturnal sleeper. Ger Duijzings, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Regensburg, joins the host to talk about his Nightlaboratory project. Two other guests, Jeff (a London night bus driver), and an anonymous outreach worker with sex workers in East London, give their views and experiences of working at night.

In this podcast, I introduce our listeners to a world of work that is invisible to the diurnal eye and inaudible to the nocturnal sleeper; night shift workers tell frightening, inspiring, as well as rewarding stories of lives lived beyond the frontier of the night. 

"Hello, whenever it is you're listening, day or night, welcome to the first NightWorkPod. NightWorkPod™ or NWP™ is a portmanteau of night shift work and podcast. NWP is inspired by my doctoral research into the sociology of the invisible migrant night shift workers in London."

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