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Synchronisation, Desynchronisations : the New Topics of Time

Domnique Royoux et Emmanuel Munch

In 2007, the periodical “Espace Populations Sociétés” dedicated a special double issue to the question of populations’ time and temporalities.

The collected works, which focused on French territory, inventoried the different patterns in which professional and personal life intertwine, explored the effects deriving from the current urban organisation which tends to dissociate places of living and places of work, and discussed unequal access to land resources, the scope of which is more or less regulated by the offer of transportation made available to individuals and communities.

The articles also addressed the various forms of human cohabitation at work in public and touristic places. These questions, which are more topical than ever, deserve to be re-examined and deepened.

Indeed, the phenomena of desynchronisation which manifest today on all scales and in all parts of the world in the combined spheres of people’s daily life and of labour organisation have gained such an influence over the last decade that it calls for perpetually renewed analyses. This will be the subject of this edition. Since the release of the works by Hartmut Rosa (especially his last and less frequently cited publication (Rosa, 2012), we have been able to evaluate the repercussions of what is generally referred to as « the acceleration of lifestyles » and assess the effects of social and technological evolutions on the synchrony of social temporalities. Few research, however, have taken to measuring in a comprehensive manner the spatial impact of the transformations of life and work rhythms unfolding within our modern societies of services.

François Ascher spoke of four « temporal orders » (Ascher, 1998) – economic, institutional, familial and religious – which quite spontaneously segmented the daily life of a society he described as « industrial ». It was through these macro-social forces (which are materialised by the horn of factories, the bells of schools and churches or the tinkling bell announcing dinner) that the synchronisation of daily activities would operate. Assuming that the synchronisation of activities has nowadays completely disintegrated would however be misleading: it operates differently, most certainly on more fragmented levels. Individuals no longer passively receive pre-segmented temporal orders that were mostly made tangible by bells. They are now in charge of coordinating themselves the lines of activities mapping the Rubik’s cube of their daily life (Munch, 2014). In these times of transition, populations and territories are crossed, affected and upset by the pressing need of conciliating the various temporalities composing their daily life (work hours, family time, personal time…) So as to address these concerns, the last 15 years have been marked by the increasingly strong role taken up by public politics of time in the institutional field of regional authorities. If numerous analyses and actions can today be attributed to the “Bureau des temps”, these analyses and actions could, with hindsight, be better contextualised. They could, in this respect, be chosen as a focal point for the propositions of papers structured around the 3 themes presented bellow.

These themes all engage to re-question the new forms of inequalities in time managing in relation to social categories (these inequalities are, for instance, linked to the generalization of schedules with atypical working-hours or flexible working- hours, which remain the prerogative of certain socio-professional groups.) Additionally, we suggest to examine the recent logistics presiding over urban planning and its capacity to re-think the manner in which public spaces function by making allowance for the connections and tensions proceeding from various social temporalities (let us mention the opposition between “the party city” and “the city that sleeps”, for example). Finally, this call for papers also aims at inquiring the scientific tools that would enable researchers to properly apprehend and conjugate the plural and sometimes contradictory dimension of time, from a social (Zerubavel, 1981) and topical (Hägerstrand, 1970) perspective: sequence, duration, moment, frequency.

The papers that would consider these diverse dimensions, by favouring a geographical and socio-anthropological approach of human temporalities, will be particularly appreciated.

The submitted papers will tackle the 3 following questions and their interconnections:

1) The flexibilisation of daily life and the inequalities opposing social categories in time managing: the spatio-temporal adjustments favoured by private and public stakeholders

2) A typology of human cohabitation in public spaces and its accounting for in territorial planning initiatives

3) The observing of human temporalities and the processes of concentration associated to spatio-temporal analyses


Submission of summaries: by 30th April 2018

Submission of papers: by 1st September 2018


Domnique Royoux (Professor of Geography at the University de Poitiers)

Emmanuel Munch (Lecturer at the École d’urbanisme de Paris, PhD in Urbanism from the University Paris-Est)


Ascher, F., 1998, « Du vivre en juste à temps au chrono-urbanisme », Les annales de la recherche urbaine, n° 77.

Beyer Chris, Royoux Dominique, " L'aménagement temporal territorial : repenser les territoires en conjuguant espace et rythmes", Métropoles [ en ligne], 17 I 2015 :

Bondue ( J-P), Royoux (D), (dir), 2007, Temps et temporalités des populations, Espace Populations Sociétés, 2007.2-3

Boulin (J-Y), 2008, Villes et politiques temporelles, La Documentation française.

de Certeau, M, 1990, [1980], L’invention du quotidien, 1 : Arts de faire, Gallimard.

Hagerstrand, T., 1970, « How about people in regional science ? » Papers of the Regional Science Association, n° 24, p. 7-21.

Mallet Sandra, " Aménager les rythmes : politiques temporelles et urbanisme ", 15 avril 2013 :

Munch, E., 2017, Mais pourquoi arrivent-ils tous à la même heure ? Le paradoxe de l’heure de pointe et des horaires de travail flexibles. Enquête sociologique auprès de cadres franciliens. Thèse de doctorat en Aménagement et Urbanisme, Université Paris-Est.

Munch, E., 2014, « L’harmonisation des horaires de travail : en finir avec l’heure de pointe ? », Métropolitiques, 22 janvier 2014.

Proulhac, L., 2018 (à paraître), « L’évolution récente de la mobilité locale des actifs franciliens : une approche typologique des comportements du quotidien », Cybergéo.

Rosa (H), 2012, Aliénation et accélération, La Découverte

Royoux ( D), Vassalo (P), 2013, Urgences temporelles, Syllepses

Zerubavel, E., 1981, Hidden Rythms, University of California Press.

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