Professor Linda McDowell

Back to the Future? Gender, Generations, Migration and Precarious Employment
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Linda McDowell
University of Oxford



In this plenary presentation, I will attempt to pull together some of the main themes of the conference addressed in the specialist sessions. Through the lens of two studies of migrant workers in local labour markets in the UK – one of young male migrants and one of women workers of different ages - I will explore the extent of change and continuity in gender divisions of labour, in the production of difference and inequality and the meaning of work, counter-posing recent changes with historical material about the migrant division of labour.  I shall take a critical look at theoretical claims about transformation, affective labour and precarity, assessing the implications of the entry of new workers, especially the growing diversity among migrants to the UK, of new forms of contract and of new spaces of work and employment. I shall conclude with reflections on the extent of change and continuity in gender divisions of labour and the prospects for young men and women in post-austerity Britain.


Linda McDowell is currently Professor of Human Geography at the University of Oxford and Director of St John's College Research Centre which was established to encourage interdisciplinary research within and beyond the college. Educated at Cambridge and London Universities Professor McDowell has worked at the Open University, Cambridge, LSE and UCL. She is an honorary fellow of the Gender Institute at the LSE and an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences. Her main research interests are in economic change, service sector growth, gender divisions of labour, organizational cultures, migration, global cities and feminist theory. She is 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.  Professor McDowell is author of many books including Working Lives: Gender, migration and employment in Britain, 1945-2007 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), Working Bodies: Interactive service employment and workplace identities (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Redundant Masculinities? Employment change and white working class youth (Blackwell 2003) and Hard Labour: the forgotten voices of Latvian migrant ‘volunteer’ workers (UCL Press 2005).


Her papers and books have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese. 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 held visiting positions, among others, at the University of Southampton and at University of California, Los Angeles.


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