Academic Profile

Linda McDowell delivered the 2014 Roepke Lecture in Economic Geography on 'The Lives of Others: Gendering Labour Geography' at the 2014 Association of American Geographers Annual Conference. A video of the lecture is available on the Economic Geography website:

In 2013, Linda published a new book about gender, migration and women's working lives - Working Lives: Gender, migration and employment in Britain, 1945-2007. Published by Wiley-Blackwell, the book explores the ways in which the UK labour market has changed since the end of World War Two through oral narratives by women migrants from different parts of the world who came to the UK in the second half of the twentieth century. The book was the subject of an 'author meets the critics' session at the RGS annual conference in 2013 when Professor Bev Skeggs and others discussed its contribution.

She has also recently started a new research project with Esther Rootham and Abby Hardgrove about the impact of worklessness and marginal forms of employment on young men living in Swindon and Luton as part of the Oxford Diaspora Programme funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

In 2009, Linda McDowell published Working Bodies: Interactive service employment and workplace identities (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). It examines the theoretical underpinnings and empirical nature of the noticeable shift to interactive and embodied forms of work in service economies and includes case studies of different types of jobs, drawing on her own research and a wide range of other published work about low-paid service employment.

She is an economic geographer interested in the connections between economic restructuring, labour market change and class and gender divisions in Great Britain. Before joining the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford, she held lectureships at the Open and Cambridge Universities, a visiting position at the University of California Los Angeles, and chairs at the London School of Economics and University College London. At the Open University she was the Vice-Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty and at Cambridge and UCL the Director of Graduate Studies, as well as Vice-Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge between 1997-1999.

She has been at the forefront in the development of feminist perspectives on contemporary social and economic change, as well as in the development of feminist methodologies and pedagogic practices. She has published widely in geographical journals, as well as in feminist journals including Signs: a journal of women and culture and Women's History Review. She is the author or editor of numerous books, including Capital Culture (Blackwell, 1997), Gender, Identity and Place (Polity, 1999), Redundant Masculinities? (Blackwell, 2003) and Hard Labour: the forgotten voices of Latvian volunteer workers (UCL Press, 2005). Hard Labour is based on oral histories with Latvian women recruited in displaced persons camps in Germany by the British Government between 1946 and 1949 to work in the UK. Her most recent book - Working Bodies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) was written when she held a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship between 2006 and 2008. She is part of the ESRC Gender Equality Network, where teams of social scientists from several British Universities are mapping the changing nature of gender relations in Britain (see GeNet: Gender Equality Network). As part of that Network she directed a case study of new divisions of labour in a London hotel and hospital, working with Dr Adina Batnitzky and Dr Sarah Dyer. A number of journal articles based on this research have now been published.

Between 2007 and 2009, she was the co-director with Professor Ruth Pearson at the University of Leeds of a project on South Asian women's political involvement in the UK. This was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of its Diaspora, Migration and Identity Programme. An exhibition of material about the Grunwick strike (1976 to 1978) and the dispute at Gate Gourmet in 2005 entitled 'Striking Women: Voices of South Asian women workers from Grunwick and Gate Gourmet' is currently on display at the Women's Library in London and will be preserved after its close in December 2009 as a website:

Professor McDowell's papers and books have been translated into a number of languages including German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. She has held the editorship of Area and Antipode, was the review editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, as well as a member of the editorial board for the journal's book series: Studies in Urban and Social Change, published by Blackwell. She is also the chair of the Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, which is a charitable foundation awarding grants for doctoral study. She is currently an editorial board member of Economic Geography, Journal of Economic Geography, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society and the Service Industries Journal. She was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society's Women and Geography Research Group. She has been on the RGS (IBG) Council twice, as well as a member of the Steering Group of the Geography, Environmental and Earth Sciences Subject Centre. She has been a member of a number of ESRC Committees for the assessment of research training and course recognition and is currently a member of its virtual college.

She currently is the Director of St John's College Research Centre which was established to encourage interdisciplinary research within and beyond the college.

Working Lives: Gender, Migration and Employment in Britain, 1945-2007

Full of unique and compelling insights into the working lives of migrant women in the UK, this book draws on more than two decades of in-depth research to explore the changing nature of women's employment in post-war Britain.

  • A first-rate example of theoretically located empirical analysis of labour market change in contemporary Britain
  • Includes compelling case studies that combine historical documentation of social change with fascinating first-hand accounts of women's working lives over decades
  • Integrates information gleaned from more than two decades of in-depth research
  • Revealing comparative analysis of the similarities and differences in the lives of immigrant working women in post-war Britain
  • Features real-life accounts of women's under-reported experiences of migration

The book was the subject of an 'author meets the critics' session at the RGS annual conference on the 30 August 2013 when Professor Bev Skeggs and others discussed its contribution.

Current Research

Linda's current research interests include: Theoretical and empirical work on the nature, form and implications of economic and social restructuring in contemporary Britain, examining issues related to poverty and inequality, especially access to labour market and their segmentation; transnational migration; feminist theory and methods.


Prof. McDowell typically teaches part of the human geography undergraduate compulsory paper where she offers lectures on work and employment, methods for qualitative research for both undergraduates and graduate students and the theory and philosophy option for D.Phil. students within the School of Geography and the Environment.

Linda McDowell has a long-standing commitment to the diffusion of the social sciences and in her career to date has taught both conventional and adult students across a range of subjects, including social policy, urban and women's studies as well as geography. She is committed to encouraging and increasing applications from school students to read geography at university. At Cambridge she was the departmental representation on a university initiative to encourage minority applicants to the university. She is now a member of the Equalities Committee at St John's where she was Tutor for Women between 2005-7. She is a long-standing member of the AUT (now UCU), with a particular interest in equal opportunities. She has contributed to policy debates through research for the (former) Departments of Education and Health and Social Security. She has advised the Humanities Research Council of South Africa on post-liberation curriculum and research developments.

Current Graduate Research Students

Thomas Ashfold

Realising the potential of work-time reduction in the 'developed' world; overcoming the perverse employer and employee incentives that encourage long work hours

Lisa Choi

Mobilities and socio-spatialities in the Aerotropolis: Dallas-Fort Worth and New Songdo City

David Maguire

Learning to serve time: an investigation into how the construction of working class masculinity impacts on the life chances of the young men who invest in it

Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)

Ashok Kumar
Completed in 2015

Global collective bargaining and the garment industry

Andrea Kölbel
Completed in 2015

Youth, Aspiration, and Mobility: Young people debating their potential futures in Nepal

Sahar Romani
Completed in 2015

Generation NGO: youth and development in urban India

Alexandra Yannias
Completed in 2015

'Do the data in fact deceive?': An analysis of the roles of evaluation and the production of aid effectiveness at the World Bank

Tanya Kumar
Completed in 2014

Marginalized street traders or strategic entrepreneurs? Social networks, political structures and Kolkata’s young street vendors

Michelle Buckley
Completed in 2012

Building the global Gulf city: tracing urban geographies of labour and capital in Dubai, UAE

Amrita Hari
Completed in 2012

Migration of Indian immigrants in Canada

Esther Rootham
Completed in 2012

(Re)Working citizenship: young people and colour-blind politics

Christiane Wirth Forsberg
Completed in 2012

'Mobile citizens': living the European dream?

Michael Ekers
Completed in 2010

Working the landscape: cultures of labour in the British Columbia tree planting sector

Adam Ramadan
Completed in 2009

Violent geographies of exile: Palestinian refugees and refugee camps in Lebanon

Louise Ashley
Completed in 2008

The new economy of inequality: the reproduction of disadvantage in the UK's legal sector

Jennifer Morrissey
Completed in 2008

Life on the outside: negotiating school to work transitions

Laura James
Completed in 2006

Working women: gender, class and place.

Selected Publications

Publications are those that were listed on the old website. Publications database integration forthcoming.
Articles and Book Chapters
Book chapters
  • McDowell, L. and Court, G. (2010) Performing work: Bodily representations in merchant banks. Reprinted in Oakes, T. and Price P.L. (eds.) (2010) The Cultural Geography Reader (New edition 2010). Routledge, Section 8, pp.457-465. ISBN: 9780415418744. First published in Environment and Planning D, (1994), 12: 727-750.
  • McDowell, L. (2006) Feminist economic geographies: gendered identities, cultural economies and economic change. In, B. Sen and H. Lawson Smith (eds.) Economic geography: past, present and future. Routledge, pp. 34-46.
  • McDowell, L. (2005) The men and the boys: bankers, barmen and burger makers. In, Van Hoeven (ed.) Spaces of Masculinity, Routledge, pp. 19-30.
  • McDowell, L. (2005) Geographies of difference: feminist interpretations of urban space and everyday lives. In, S. Aiken and G. Valentine (eds.) Key Approaches in Human Geography, Sage.
  • McDowell, L. (2004) Thinking through work: Gender, power and space. In, Barnes, T. et al. Reading Economic Geography, Blackwell, pp. 315-328.
  • McDowell, L. (2004) Sexuality, desire and embodied performances in the workplace. In, Bainham, A. et al. (eds.) Sexual Positions: Sexuality and the Law. Hart, Oxford, pp. 85-107.
  • McDowell, L. (2003) Space, place and home. In, Eagleton, M. (ed.) Feminist Theory. Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 11-31.
  • McDowell, L. (2002) Problems of/for theory. In, Johnston, R. et al. Geographies of Global Change. Macmillan, revised version, pp. 296-309.
  • McDowell, L. (2002) Workplace cultures. In, Barnes, T. et al (eds.) Handbook of Cultural Geography, Sage.
  • McDowell, L. (2002) Geographers and sexual difference: feminist contributions. In, Johnston, R. and Williams, M. (eds.) A Century of British Geography. Oxford University Press (for the British Academy).