Academic Profile

Linda McDowell is a Senior Professorial Researcher in the School, after 12 years as a Statutory Professor of Human Geography. She is a Fellow Emerita at St John's College where is is also the Fellow for Graduates and Early Career Researchers. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and in the New Year's Honours List in 2016 she was appointed CBE for services to Geography and Higher Education. From January 2017 she is a Leverhulme Fellow Emerita, working on a study of intergenerational mobility, labour market change and the position of unskilled white men.

In 2015 she was awarded a grant under the EU Horizon 2020 programme to work on European-wide collaborative research on solidarity at different spatial scales to challenge growing inequality since the 2007/08 financial crisis and subsequent austerity policies. The programme is called Solidus - Solidarity in European Societies: Empowerment, social justice and citizenship.

In February 2016 her new book Migrant Women's Voices: talking about life and work in the UK since 1945 was published by Bloomsbury Press. It is based on oral narratives of 74 women talking about their journeys to the UK and their lives after migration, as they worked in on the line in factories, in hospitals and care homes, banks, hotels, shops, universities and driving buses.

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 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. It was the subject of a review symposium in Work, Employment and Society in September 2015.

She has recently completed a 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. Publications from this research with Abby Hardgrove and Esther Rootham are included in the list of articles below.

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.

Migrant Women's Voices: talking about life and work in the UK since 1945
Migrant Women's Voices: talking about life and work in the UK since 1945

Between 1945 and the new century millions of women, including mothers and migrants, joined the labour force. These changes are brought to life through the stories of migrant women, working in factories and hospitals, banks, care homes, shops and universities over a period of 60 years.

Migrant Women's Voices is an autobiography of the post-war period as Britain became a multi-cultural society and waged work the norm for most women. McDowell illustrates the shift in migration patterns as post-imperial migrants to the UK replaced the immediate post-war pattern of migrants from war-torn Europe and who were then themselves joined by migrants from an increasingly diverse range of countries as the 20th century drew to a close.

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.

Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)

Lisa Choi
Completed DPhil in 2017

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

Thomas Ashfold
Completed DPhil in 2016

Work, Time and Rhythm: Investigating contemporary ‘time squeeze’

David Maguire
Completed DPhil in 2016

Learning to serve time: troubling spaces of working class masculinities in the UK

Selected Publications since 2002

  • View Professor Linda McDowell's ORCID profile
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Journal Articles

Book Chapters

  • McDowell, L. (forthcoming) Creative cites, inequality and the other side of the knowledge economy: the case of Oxford, UK. In, Gerhard, U., Hoelscher, M. and Wilson, D. (eds.) Inequalities in Creative Cities: Issues, Approaches, Comparisons. Palgrave Macmillan US. ISBN: 978-1-349-95114-7.
  • McDowell, L. and Rootham, E. (forthcoming) Young men and worklessness. In, Harker, C., Hörschelmann, K. and Skelton, T. (eds.) Geographies of Children and Young People: Conflict, violence and peace. Springer. ISBN: 978-981-287-037-7.
  • McDowell, L. (2017) The Ideal Worker: Inclusion and Exclusion in a Knowledge-based City: The Case of Oxford, UK. In, Gerhard, U., Hoelscher, M. and Wilson, D. (eds.) Inequalities in Creative Cities: Issues, Approaches, Comparisons. Palgrave Macmillan US. pp. 79-105. ISBN: 978-1-349-95114-7.
  • McDowell, L., Rootham, E. and Hardgrove, A. (2014) Representations, respect and resentment: labour market change and discourses of masculine disadvantage. Ch.24. in, Gorman-Murray, A. and Hopkins, P. (eds.) Masculinities and Place. Ashgate. pp. 387-400. ISBN: 9781472409799.
  • McDowell, L. (2013) Social class: position, place, culture and meaning. Chapter 11 in, Johnson, N., Schein, R. and J. Winders (eds.) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 88-104. ISBN: 9780470655597.
  • McDowell, L. (2010) Masculine discourses and dissonances: strutting 'lads', protest masculinity and domestic respectability. Chapter 31 in, Paddison, R. and Ostendorf, W. (eds.) Urban Studies: Society, Vol. 2: Experiencing the City. SAGE, London; Thousand Oaks. pp. 256-282. ISBN: 9781847872579.
  • McDowell, L. (2010) The use of migrant labour in the hospitality sector: a commentary. In, Ruhs, M. and Anderson, B. (eds.) Who Needs Migrant Workers? Labour Shortages, Immigration and Public Policy. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 352 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-958059-0.
  • McDowell, L. and Court, G. (2010) Performing work: Bodily representations in merchant banks. Reprinted in, Oakes, T. and Price P.L. (eds.) The Cultural Geography Reader. Routledge. pp. 457-465. ISBN: 9780415418744. First published in Environment and Planning, D, (1994), 12: 727-750..
  • Fagan, C., McDowell, L., Perrons, D., Ray, K. and Ward, K. (2009) Migration, employment and gender divisions of labour, pp. 199-212, Women and employment: changing lives and new challenges. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 329-346. 8 and 14 in, Scott, J., Dex, S. and Joshi, H. (eds.) Class differences in mothers' work schedules and assessments of their 'work-life balance' in dual-earner couples in Britain. Edward Elgar.
  • McDowell, L. (2009) Interviewing: fear and liking in the field. Chapter 9 in, Delyser, D., Herbert, S., Aitken, S., Crang, M. and McDowell, L. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Geography. SAGE, London. pp. 156-171. ISBN: 9781412919913.
  • McDowell, L. (2009) New masculinities and femininities: gender divisions in the new economy. Chapter 7 in, Furlong, A. (ed.) Handbook of Youth and Young Adulthood: New perspectives and agendas. Routledge. 480 pp. ISBN: 9780415445405.
  • Fagan, C., McDowell, L., Perrons, D., Ray, K. and Ward, K. (2008) Class differences in mothers' work schedules and assessments of their 'work-life balance' in dual-earner couples in Britain. Chapter 8 in, Scott, J., Dex, S. and Joshi, H. (eds.) Women and Employment: Changing lives and new challenges. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham. pp. 199-212. ISBN: 978-1847202499.
  • McDowell, L. (2008) On the significance of being white: European migrant workers in the British economy in the 1940s and 2000s. Chapter 5 in, Dwyer, C. and Bressey, C. (eds.) New Geographies of Race and Racism. Ashgate, Aldershot. 326 pp. ISBN: 978-0-7546-7085-8.
  • McDowell, L. (2008) Young, white, male and working class: a portrait of Richard. Chapter 5 in, Jeffrey, C. and Dyson, J. (eds.) Telling Young Lives: Portraits of Global Youth. Temple University Press, Philadelphia. 232 pp. ISBN: 1-59213-931-0.
  • McDowell, L., Batnitzky, A. and Dyer, S. (2008) Migration, employment and gender divisions of labour. Chapter 14 in, Scott, J., Dex, S. and Joshi, H. (eds.) Women and Employment: Changing lives and new challenges. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham. pp. 329-346. ISBN: 978-1847202499.
  • McDowell, L. (2007) Sexing the economy: theorizing bodies. In, Tickell, A., Sheppard, E., Peck, J.A. and T. Barnes (eds.) Politics and Practice in Economic geography. Sage, London. pp. 60-70. ISBN: 9781412907866.
  • Perrons, D., Mcdowell, L., Fagan, C., Ray, K. and Ward, K. (2007) Gender, social class and work-life balance in the new economy. Chapter 8 in, Compton, R., Lewis, S. and C. Lyonette (eds.) Women, Men, Work and Family in Europe. Palgrave Macmillan. 288 pp. ISBN: 9781403987198.
  • 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) Geographies of difference: feminist interpretations of urban space and everyday lives. In, S. Aiken and G. Valentine (eds.) Reading Economic Geography. SAGE.
  • 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. (2004) Sexuality, desire and embodied performances in the workplace. In, Bainham, A. et al. (ed.) Sexual Positions: Sexuality and the Law. Hart, Oxford. pp. 85-107.
  • McDowell, L. (2004) Thinking through work: Gender, power and space. In, Barnes, T. et al (ed.) Reading Economic Geography. Blackwell. pp. 315-328.
  • McDowell, L. (2003) Space, place and home. In, Eagleton, M. (ed.) Feminist Theory. Blackwell, Oxford. pp. 11-31.
  • 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).
  • McDowell, L. (2002) Problems of/for theory. In, Johnston, R. et al (ed.) Geographies of Global Change. Macmillan, revised version. pp. 296-309.
  • McDowell, L. (2002) Workplace cultures. In, Barnes, T. et al (ed.) Handbook of Cultural Geography. SAGE.