The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Al James

Reader in Economic Geography, British Academy Mid Career Research Fellow (2017-18)


Al James. BA Hons Geography (Cambridge), PhD Economic Geography (Cambridge)

**New book: Work-Life Advantage (published December 2017, Wiley Blackwell, RGS-IBG Book Series)**  

I am an economic geographer with core research and teaching interests in workers and work.  My work is focused in the UK, USA and India, and has involved cross-disciplinary collaborations with like-minded colleagues in Labour Studies, Development Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, and Business / Management.  My research agenda develops worker-centred understandings of economies and their diverse geographies in three main areas:

(1) Gendered work-lives: this research disrupts 'universal' economic theory through new engagements with social reproduction and work-life ‘balance’; examines the digital work-lives of working mothers as gig workers in the UK's 'Sharing Economy'; and develops more inclusive conceptions of economic ‘development’ that integrate normative questions around family-friendly working, gender equality, and social inclusion. 

(2) Labour geographies of India’s New Service Economy: this research challenges the marginalisation of the global South as a focus for economic research; deepens our understanding of worker agency in making and shaping geographies of capitalism outside the Anglo-American world; and builds new intellectual partnerships with Development Geographers through a hybrid intellectual ‘trading zone’. 

(3) Regional cultural economy of learning and innovation: this research develops a deeper understanding of how sociocultural norms, values and beliefs unavoidably shape the competitive performance of workers, firms and regional economies; to support the development of more effective policy interventions in pursuit of greater socioeconomic prosperity and growth.   

If you a looking to pursue a PhD or a Postdoc and can see a good fit with my research interests then please get in touch.  You can see a list of my current and former PhD students here and some potential PhD topics here

My research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council, British Academy, Nuffield Foundation, Centre for the Study of Migration, RGS-IBG, and Cambridge Humanities Research Scheme. I am an Economic Geography Editor for Geography Compass (2015-), a member of the ESRC/Innovate UK Innovation Caucus (2016-), and have been awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2017-18).  Before moving to Newcastle in 2016 I worked at two other international hotspots in economic geography: Queen Mary University of London (2007-2016), and Cambridge University (2003-2007).  

Recent publications:


Key projects

  • Digital Work-Lives and Gender Inclusive Growth in the 'Sharing Economy' (2017-18). Al James, British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (Sept 2017-Sept 2018). 
  • Re-Imagining Economies: Towards More Socially Inclusive Economic Geographies (2017-19). Al James, with Erica Pani, Stuart Dawley, Alex Hughes, Helen Jarvis, Danny MacKinnon, Andy Pike, Jane Pollard, Gareth Powells, Alison Stenning, Astrid Wood. Newcastle University Research Excellence Academy. Co-producing richer theories of just growth through new conversations with stakeholder groups too long marginalised in theory-building. 
  • In the Business of Economic Geography: Tracking the Movement of Economic Geographers into Business and Management (2015-16).  Mike Bradshaw (Warwick), Al James (QMUL, Newcastle), Catherine Souch (RGS-IBG), Neil Coe (NUS), James Faulconbridge (Lancaster). RGS-IBG project.  To assess the scale of this mobility trend (since 2000), its major drivers, and its broader implications for teaching, research and capacity building in Economic Geography in the UK.  See:
  • Investigating Socially Inclusive Growth in India’s New Service Economy (2013).  Bhaskar Vira (Cambridge), Al James (QMUL), Philippa Williams (QMUL), and Fiona McConnell (Oxford). Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme. Regional labour market analysis of career progression amongst graduates from Muslim and North-eastern minority communities. 
  • Islamic Charitable Giving in London’s East End (2010-2013).  Kavita Datta (QMUL), Al James (QMUL), and Jane Pollard (Newcastle). Funded by Centre for Migration Studies (QMUL) and Newcastle University. 
  • Promoting Equality and Diversity in Economic Crisis (PEDEC) (2010-12).  Kate Malleson (QMUL Law), Al James (QMUL Geography), Lizzie Barmes (QMUL Law), Geraldine Healy and Hazel Conley (QMUL Business Management).   
  • Impacts of Work-Life (Im)Balance on Innovation & Learning in Regional Economies (2006-9).  Al James (Cambridge then QMUL), Economic and Social Research Council, RES-000-22-1574-A.  Project evaluated as ‘Outstanding’.  Project affiliated to ESRC Gender Equality Network (GeNet). 
  • Worker Mobility and Labour Market Intermediaries in the Call Centre Industry: An International Comparison (India and the UK) (2006-9).  Bhaskar Vira (Cambridge) and Al James (Cambridge), Nuffield Foundation (SGS 32348).  Additional funding: Isaac Newton Trust (University of Cambridge); Smuts Memorial Fund (University of Cambridge); and the Economy, Development and Social Justice research group (QMUL).
  • Regional Culture, Corporate Strategy, and High Tech Innovation: Salt Lake City (1999-2002). Al James (Cambridge), ESRC, doctoral research funding (R-00-429-934-224).

Recent / forthcoming presentations

  • Socially inclusive growth in India's New Service Economy. 2017 Regional Studies Annual Conference Dublin, 6 June 2017. 
  • We're in Business! Sustaining Economic Geography? Al James with Mike Bradshaw, Neil Coe and James Faulconbridge. Invited presentation at Cardiff University, School of Geography workshop 'Whatever Happened to UK Economic Geography?', 1 June 2017. 
  • Recentering anaemic geographies of financial resilience.  Al James, with Kavita Datta, Jane Pollard, and Quman Akli. 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers, Boston 7 April 2017.
  • Marginalised digital labour in India’s new service economy. Al James, with Philippa Williams, Bhaskar Vira and Fiona McConnell.  Invited seminar to the School of Geography, University of Nottingham (Economic Worlds Series), 14 December 2016.
  • Work-Life Learning Advantage: The individual and subjectivity in the creative economy. Al James presentation to the 5th European Colloquium on Culture, Creativity and Economy, 6-8 October 2016, Seville. 
  • In the Business of Economic Geography: trends and implications of the movement of economic geographers to business and management schools in the UK. With Mike Bradshaw, Neil Coe, James Faulconbridge and Catherine Souch. 2016 RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London, 1 Sept 2016. [Available here].
  • ‘Digital Labour’ at the margins?  Muslim professional (im)mobilities in India’s New Service Economy.  With Philippa Williams and Bhaskar Vira.  2016 RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London, 31 August 2016.

Research recognition

  • British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2017-18)
  • Visiting Researcher, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, USA (March - April 2017). 
  • ESRC / Innovate UK Innovation Caucus (2016-)
  • International advisory team 'Gender, Skilled Migration and IT: A Comparative Study of the UK and India' (ESRC Project, Open University, 2016-17).
  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research 2015 nomination. “Center for Families at Purdue University and the Boston College Center for Work & Family, 16 nominees determined from over 2500 articles published in 77 leading English-language journals.”
  • Economic Geography representative, ESRC Urban Futures Commissioning Panel (2015)
  • Editor Economic Section Geography Compass (2015-)
  • Visiting Researcher, Department of Geography and Economic History, Umeå University, Sweden (2014 and 2015)
  • International advisory board: Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society (2007-)
  • PhD Prize in Economic Geography 2004, Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers
  • UK contingent First Annual Fulbright Summer Institute on Regional Economic Development, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2004)
  • Economic Geography scholarship to the Inaugural Summer Institute in Economic Geography University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA (2003)
  • Visiting Research Scholar, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Utah (2002)



Geographies of Working Lives (GEO3416)

  • This module explores the economic-development geographies of people's everyday struggles to make a living in the contemporary global economy.  Drawing on research within and across the global North and global South, this module engages with an exciting 'labour geographies' research agenda, concerned with how workers are capable of fashioning the geography of capitalism to suit their own needs and self-production; and to identify geographical possibilities and labour market strategies through which ‘workers may challenge, outmaneuver and perhaps even beat capital’ in different locations.  The module seeks to expose the spatial limits of mainstream 'universal' theories in geography which presume that 'the economy' and 'labour' can be theorised solely from the perspective of the formal spaces of advanced capitalist economies in the global North.

Also: Economic Geography (GEO2099), Local and Regional Development (GEO3114), Interconnected World (GEO1010)

PhD Supervision:

  • Aditya Ray (with Philippa Williams, QMUL). ‘Work in India's New Service Economy: Employee experiences in the domestic voice‐based consumer‐interaction industry in Pune’ (2014–17). QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award.
  • Vincent Guermond (with Kavita Datta, QMUL). 'The financialisation of remittances: an example from the London to Ghana remittance corridor' (2014–2020, part-time). QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award.
  • Robert Stephenson (with Alastair Owens, QMUL; Laura Bedford and Eleanor John, Geffrye Museum). ‘Men juggling work, home and family in (post)recession London’ (2012-17, part-time). AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award.  Part of larger programme of research ‘Home-Work’ (4 CDAs 2012-15), co-ordinated by Alison Blunt. 
  • Josh Phillips (with Kavita Datta, QMUL). ‘Exploring the geographies of credit amongst entrepreneurial new migrant groups in London’ (2010-14). QMUL Doctoral Studentship Award. Completed.
  • Camille Aznar (with Kavita Datta QMUL). ‘Risk, financial exclusion and migrant workers in London’ (2009-2012). ESRC CASE studentship with the Runnymede Trust. Completed.
  • Supriti Bezbaruah (with Cathy McIlwaine, QMUL). ‘The evolving relationship of work, women and the State in India: the experience of the banking sector’ (2007-2011). Self-funded. Completed. Thesis subsequently written up as research monograph: Bezbaruah S. (2015) Banking on Equality: Women, Work and Employment in the Banking Sector in India. London: Routledge. 
  • Laurent Frideres (with Ron Martin, Cambridge University). ‘The spatial and temporal dynamics of industrial specialization & clustering in the regional economy’ (2004-2010).  Funded by The Luxembourg Ministry for Education. Completed. Awarded prize 2011 RGS-IBG PhD Prize (Economic Geography Research Group).