The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Al James

Reader in Economic Geography, British Academy Mid Career Research Fellow


Al James. BA Geography (Cambridge), PhD Economic Geography (Cambridge), FRSA, FRGS

I am an economic geographer with research and teaching interests in: labour | women and work | social reproduction | gig economy | work platforms | work-life balance | family-friendly working | India's Service Economy | creativity, learning and innovation.

So far, my work has involved fieldwork in the UK, USA, Ireland and India, and collaborations with like-minded colleagues in Labour Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology and Business / Management.  My research develops worker-centred understandings of economies in four main areas:

(1) Work and Families: this research disrupts masculinist 'universal' economic theory through new engagements with gender inequalities, social reproduction and work-life ‘balance’; examines the precarious work-lives of working mothers and fathers using online work platforms in the UK's 'Gig Economy'; and develops more inclusive conceptions of economic ‘development’ that integrate normative questions around family-friendly working, gender equality, and social inclusion (with funding from the ESRC and a British Academy Mid Career Fellowship). 

(2) Indian labour geographies: this research engages with white collar and blue collar service workers in India in multiple sectors to: explore opportunities of employment-led growth for Indian youth; challenge the marginalisation of the global South as a focus for economic research; deepen our understanding of worker agency in remaking capitalism beyond Anglo-American 'core' economies; and build cross-disciplinary partnerships with Development scholars (funded by Nuffield Foundation, Cambridge Humanities Research Scheme, and Indian Institute of Management Calcutta). 

(3) Re-imagining economiesIn the wake of the Great Recession and subsequent geographies of austerity, this project explores new theoretical, methodological, policy and practical possibilities for inclusive growth, doing economy differently, and for challenging the socioeconomic hardship of marginalised groups.  It is based on inclusive conversations between academics, third sector organisations, policy makers and community groups (funded by Newcastle REA). 

(4) Cultures of learning, innovation and regional development: this earlier body of research explored how corporate cultures and regional industrial cultures powerfully shape the competitive performance of workers, firms and regions; to support the development of more effective policy interventions in pursuit of greater socioeconomic prosperity and growth (ESRC funded). 

This work is all free to download from my ResearchGate, GoogleScholar, and Slideshare pages, please do take a look.  And 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, Cambridge Humanities Research Scheme, and Newcastle University Research Excellence Academy. I am an Economic Geography Editor for Geography Compass (2015-18), a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow (2017-18), and convenor of the Economic Geographies Research Group at Newcastle Geography. Before moving to Newcastle I worked at two other international hotspots in economic geography: Queen Mary University of London (2007-16), and Cambridge University (2003-7).  

Key publications:


Research Focus

labour |  women and work | female returners | gig economy | online work platforms | work-life balance | family-friendly working | India's Service Economy | learning and innovation.

Recent presentations

Funded Projects

  • Digital Work-Lives and Gender Inclusive Growth in the 'Sharing Economy' (2017-18). British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. 
  • Re-Imagining Economies: Towards More Socially Inclusive Economic Geographies (2017-19). With Erica Pani, Stuart Dawley, Alex Hughes, Helen Jarvis, Danny MacKinnon, Andy Pike, Jane Pollard, Gareth Powells. Newcastle University Research Excellence Academy. 
  • In the Business of Economic Geography: Tracking the Movement of Economic Geographers into Business and Management (2015-16).  With Mike Bradshaw (Warwick), Catherine Souch (RGS-IBG), Neil Coe (NUS), James Faulconbridge (Lancaster). See:
  • Investigating Socially Inclusive Growth in India’s New Service Economy (2013).  With Bhaskar Vira (Cambridge), Philippa Williams (QMUL), and Fiona McConnell (Oxford). Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme. 
  • Islamic Charitable Giving in London’s East End (2010-2013).  Kavita Datta (QMUL), Al James (QMUL), and Jane Pollard (Newcastle). Centre for Migration Studies (QMUL) and Newcastle University. 
  • Promoting Equality and Diversity in Economic Crisis (PEDEC) (2010-12).  With Kate Malleson (QMUL Law), 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).  ESRC, 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).  With Bhaskar Vira (Cambridge), Nuffield Foundation (SGS 32348).  
  • Regional Culture, Corporate Strategy, and High Tech Innovation: Salt Lake City (1999-2002).  ESRC, doctoral research funding, Cambridge University (R-00-429-934-224).


  • British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2017-18)
  • Fellowship of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) (2018-)
  • Advisory board 'Gender, Skilled Migration and IT: UK and India' (ESRC 2016-18).
  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research 2015 nomination. 
  • Editor Economic Section Geography Compass (2015-18)
  • PhD Prize in Economic Geography 2004, Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers



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)

Research 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).  



  • James A, Bradshaw MJ, Coe NM, Faulconbridge J. Sustaining Economic Geography? Business and Management Schools and the UK’s Great Economic Geography Diaspora. Environment and Planning A 2018, epub ahead of print.
  • James A, Bradshaw MJ, Coe NM, Faulconbridge J. We’re in business! Sustaining economic geography? (Full EGRG Report). Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 2018. In Press.
  • James A. Work-Life Advantage: Sustaining Regional Learning and Innovation. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.
  • Boyer K, Dermott E, James A, Macleavy J. Men at Work? Debating Shifting Gender Divisions of Care. Dialogues in Human Geography 2017, 7(1), 92-98.
  • Boyer K, Dermott E, James A, MacLeavy J. Regendering care in the aftermath of recession?. Dialogues in Human Geography 2017, 7(1), 56–73.
  • Williams P, James A, McConnell F, Vira B. Working at the margins? Muslim middle class professionals in India and the limits of 'labour agency'. Environment and Planning A 2017, 49(6), 1266-1285.
  • Pollard JS, Datta K, James A, Akli Q. Islamic charitable infrastructure and giving in East London: everyday economic-development geographies in practice. Journal of Economic Geography 2016, 16(4), 871–896.
  • James A. Work-life ‘balance’, recession and the gendered limits to learning and innovation (or, why it pays employers to care). Gender, Work and Organization 2014, 21(3), 273-294.
  • James A. Work-life 'balance' and gendered (im)mobilities of knowledge and learning in high-tech regional economies. Journal of Economic Geography 2014, 14(3), 483-510.
  • Vira B, James A. Building cross?sector careers in India's New Service Economy? Tracking former call centre agents in the National Capital Region. Development and Change 2012, 43(22), 449-479.
  • James A, Vira B. Labour geographies of India’s New Service Economy. Journal of Economic Geography 2012, 12(4), 871-875.
  • James A. Regional cultural economy: evolution and innovation. In: Cooke, P., Asheim, B.T., Boschma, R., Martin, R.L., Schwartz, D. and Tödtling, F, ed. Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth. London: Edward Elgar, 2011, pp.246-262.
  • Vira B, James A. Researching hybrid ‘economic’ / ‘development’ geographies in practice: methodological reflections from a collaborative project on India’s New Service Economy. Progress in Human Geography 2011, 35(5), 627-651.
  • James A. Work-life (im)‘balance’ and its consequences for everyday learning and innovation in the New Economy: evidence from the Irish IT sector. Gender, Place and Culture 2011, 18(4/5), 655-684.
  • James A, Vira B. ‘Unionising’ the new spaces of the new economy? Alternative labour organising in India’s ITES-BPO industry. Geoforum 2010, 41, 364-376.
  • James A. Economic geography: professional services. In: Kitchin, R. and Thrift, N.J, ed. The International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography. Elsevier, 2009, pp.106-111.
  • James A. Gender Divisions and Working Time in the New Economy: Changing Patterns of Work, Care and Public Policy in Europe and North America’ Perrons, D., Fagan, C., McDowell, L.M., Ray, K. and Ward, K. (eds. 2006): A Review. Gender, Place and Culture 2009, 16(3), 354-356.
  • James A. Globalization's contradictions: geographies of discipline, destruction and transformation (Conway and Heynen 2006): A review. Cultural Geographies 2009, 16, 416.
  • James A. ‘Economic Geography: A Contemporary Introduction’ Coe, N.M., Kelly, P.F. and Yeung, H.W.C. (eds. 2007): A review. Journal of Economic Geography 2008, 8(4), 581-583.
  • James A. Gendered geographies of high tech regional economies. Geography Compass 2008, 2(1), 176-198.
  • Gray M, James A. Connecting gender and economic competitiveness: lessons from Cambridge’s high tech regional economy. Environment and Planning A 2007, 39(2), 417-436.
  • James A. Demystifying the role of culture in innovative regional economies. In: Martin R.L. and Sunley P.J, ed. Economic Geography (Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences): Volume IV, The Cultural Economy. London: Routledge, 2007, pp.1197-1216.
  • James A. Everyday practices, mechanisms and effects of ‘cultural embeddedness’: learning from Utah’s high tech regional economy. Geoforum 2007, 38(2), 393-413.
  • James A, Martin RL, Sunley PJ. The rise of cultural economic geography. In: Martin R.L. and Sunley P.J, ed. Economic Geography (Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences): Volume IV, The Cultural Economy. London: Routledge, 2007, pp.3-18.
  • James A. Networks: Volumes I and II (Critical Studies in Economic Institutions series). Edited by Gernot Grabher and Walter W. Powell. Economic Geography 2006, 82(2), 233-235.
  • James A. Critical moments in the production of ‘rigorous’ and ‘relevant’ cultural economic geographies. Progress in Human Geography 2006, 30(3), 289-308.
  • James A. On the spatial limits of culture in high tech regional economic development. In: Radcliffe, S, ed. Culture and Development in a Globalising World: Geographies, Actors and Paradigms. London: Routledge, 2006, pp.176-202.
  • Gray M, James A. Theorising the gendered socio-institutional bases of dynamic regional economies. In: Polenske, K, ed. The Economic Geography of Innovation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp.129-156.
  • James A. Demystifying the role of culture in innovative regional economies. Regional Studies 2005, 39(9), 1197-1216.
  • James A, Gray M, Martin RL, Plummer P. (Expanding) the role of Geography in public policy. Environment and Planning A 2004, 36(11).
  • James A. Regional Culture, Corporate Strategy, & High Tech Innovation: Salt Lake City. 2003. Department of Geography / Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, Doctoral Thesis.