Dr Al James
Senior Lecturer in Economic Geography
Undergraduate & Postgraduate Marketing and Communications Officer
School of Geography
Queen Mary, University of London
Mile End Road, London E1 4NS
Phone: 020 7882 2746
Fax: 020 7882 7032
I am an economic geographer with research interests in: gendered geographies of work-life and employment in the New Economy; hybrid ‘economic’/ ‘development’ geographies of India’s new service economy; the regional cultural economy of learning, innovation and entrepreneurship; and economic-development geography methodology and practice. Economic Geography teaching and research at QMUL is distinctive in its challenging the mainstream demarcation of ‘economic’ and ‘development’ geographies into strictly demarcated sub-disciplinary communities. As part of this alternative hybrid ‘trading zone’, I am currently involved in an exciting new third year undergraduate module ‘Development Futures: Mumbai Unbound’ (developed with Kavita Datta) which culminates in an 8 day residential fieldtrip to Mumbai, and is unique amongst UK Geography departments.
My research to date has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Nuffield Foundation, Centre for the Study of Migration, and Isaac Newton Trust. I am a member of the International Advisory Board for the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, and have served as Secretary of the Economic Geography Research Group of the RGS-IBG (2008–2011).
*Please get in touch if you are considering a PhD and can see a good fit between your research interests and mine as outlined above and below.
Empowering Workers in India’s New Economy: Labour Market Intermediaries, Upward Mobility and Socially Inclusive Growth
This joint research with Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge) explores the changing economic-development geographies of work, employment and mobility that are accompanying India’s post-1991 economic transition. The first phase of this research explored the role of different labour market intermediaries (voice accent, culture trainers, recruiters, placement agencies) in brokering employment relationships and improving labour market outcomes for young graduates in India’s high profile IT-Enabled Services – Business Process Outsourcing industry. This was funded by the Nuffield Foundation (SGS 32848; 2006–2008), Isaac Newton Trust and Smuts Memorial Fund, and developed a research partnership with the Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB). The second phase of this work (with Fiona McConnell (Newcastle) and Phillippa Williams (QMUL) explores career mobility amongst religious minority communities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; and the institutional possibilities for socially inclusive growth in India’s new service economy.
Work-Life Advantage: Sustaining High Tech Regional Learning & Innovation
The shifting boundaries between work, home and family accompanying the transition to the ‘new economy’ are widely debated. Based on a comparative study of IT firms in Dublin, Ireland and Cambridge, UK this research explores gendered work-life conflicts amongst IT workers; the kinds of WLB arrangements that different worker cohorts find most useful in reconciling those conflicts; and how worker uptake of those preferred WLB arrangements enhances learning and innovation processes within and across firms in regional industrial systems. The first phase of this research was funded by the ESRC (RES-000-22-1574-A; 2006–2008; project evaluated as ‘outstanding’) and affiliated to the ESRC's Gender Equality Network (GeNet). The second phase of this research examines these processes in the post-recessionary context targeting female IT workers through the London Girl Geeks and womenintechnology networking groups. This work is currently being written up as a research monograph to be published in 2014.
Also emerging out of this work, I am currently exploring some new research possibilities around Stay at Home Dads and the regendering of work-life balance and care, in collaboration with Julie MacLeavy (Bristol Geography), Esther Dermott (Bristol SPAIS), and Kate Boyer (Southampton Geography).
Promoting Equality and Diversity Though Economic Crisis (PEDEC)
The PEDEC research network brings together scholars, practitioners and activists from the UK, Europe and the US through a series of workshops to explore the implications of the economic downturn, and cuts in public spending, for maintaining and progressing equality and diversity standards and for including marginalized groups in economic recovery. The PEDEC network was funded in its first phase by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2010–12), and co-organised with Kate Malleson and Lizzie Barmes (QMUL Law), Geraldine Healy and Hazel Conley (QMUL Business Management), and Aisling Lyon (PEDEC administrator).
Developing East London’s migrant economy? Islamic charitable networks in the post-recession
In the post-recessionary context of radically reduced public expenditure, this joint research with Jane Pollard (Newcastle), Kavita Datta (QMUL) and Quman Akli begins to document empirically the scale and scope of Islamic philanthropic economic networks in London’s East End, and their crucial role in mobilising community assets to help the poor and to encourage learning, entrepreneurialism and social cohesion. Rejecting the presumption that ‘the economy’ can and should be theorised solely from the perspective of the formal spaces of western economies, this research instead seeks to learn from ‘alternative’ models of Islamic philanthropy rooted in South East Asia and the Middle East in order to ‘theorise back’ from these different economic spaces, institutions and practices, to explore their geographical (re)configuration in the UK context. The first phase of this research (2011-12) engages with East London’s Somali community and is funded by the Centre for the Study of Migration.
Demystifying the Cultural Foundations of Regional Learning and Economic Development: Salt Lake City (High Tech Meets Mormonism)
Robert Stephenson (with Alastair Owens, QMUL; Laura Bedford and Eleanor John, Geffrye Museum). PhD – QMUL: ‘Men juggling work, home and family in (post)recession London’ (2012–15). AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award. Part of larger programme of research: Home-Work: Connections and Transitions in London from the 17th Century to the Present (4 CDAs), led by Professor Alison Blunt through the Centre for Studies of Home.
Josh Phillips (with Kavita Datta) ‘Exploring the geographies of credit amongst entrepreneurial new migrant groups in London’ (PhD QMUL 2010–13).
Camille Aznar (with Kavita Datta, 2012) – QMUL: ‘Risk, financial exclusion and migrant workers in London’ (2009–2012)/ ESRC CASE studentship with the Runnymede Trust.
Supriti Bezbaruah (with Cathy McIlwaine) ‘The evolving relationship of work, women and the State in India: the experience of the banking sector’ (PhD QMUL 2009–2011).
Laurent Frideres (with Ron Martin). ‘Spatial industrial clustering and competitive advantage: comparing firms inside and outside industry clusters’ (PhD University of Cambridge, 2006–2010). Awarded prize for Best PhD 2011 by RGS-IBG (Economic Geography Research Group).
Journal papers and book chapters
- James, A. (2013). Work-life ‘balance’ and gendered (im)mobilities of knowledge and learning in regional economies. Journal of Economic Geography doi:10.1093/jeg/lbt002.
- James, A. and Vira, B. (2012). Labour geographies of India’s New Service Economy. Journal of Economic Geography 12(4): 871-5.
- Vira, B. and James, A. (2012). Cross-sector advancement and skills upgrading in India’s New Service Economy? Tracking ex-call centre agents in the National Capital Region. Development and Change 43(22): 449-479.
- James, A. (2011). 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: A Journal of Feminist Geography 18(5): 655-684..
- Vira, B. and James, A. (2011). Researching hybrid ‘economic’ / ‘development’ geographies in practice: methodological reflections from a collaborative project on India’s New Service Economy. Progress in Human Geography 35(5): 627-651.
- James, A. (2010). Regional cultural economy: evolution and innovation. Chapter in Cooke, P., Asheim, B.T., Boschma, R., Martin, R.L., Schwartz, D. and Tödtling, F. (eds.) Handbook of Regional Innovation and Growth. London: Edward Elgar: pp. 246-262.
- James, A. and Vira, B. (2010). ‘Unionising’ the new spaces of the new economy? Alternative labour organising in India’s ITES-BPO industry. Geoforum 41: 364-376.
- James, A. (2009). Economic Geography: Professional Services. In Kitchin, R. and Thrift, N.J. (eds.), The International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography, Elsevier: Volume 10 pp. 106-111.
- James, A. (2008). Gendered geographies of high tech regional economies. Geography Compass 2 (2008): 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2007.00086.x
- James, A., Martin, R.L. and Sunley, P. (2007). The Rise of Cultural Economic Geography. In Ron Martin and Peter Sunley edited volume, Critical Concepts in Economic Geography: Volume IV, The Cultural Economy, Routledge, London, pp. 3–18.
- Gray, M. and James, A. (2007). Connecting Gender and Economic Competitiveness: Lessons from Cambridge's High Tech Regional Economy. Environment and Planning A 39 (2): 417-436.
- James, A. (2007). Everyday Effects, Practices and Causal Mechanisms of ‘Cultural Embeddedness’: Learning from Utah's High Tech Regional Economy. Geoforum 38: 393-413.
- Gray, M. and James, A. (2006). Theorising the Gendered Socio-Institutional Bases of Dynamic Regional Economies. In Polenske, K. (ed.), The Economic Geography of Innovation, Cambridge University Press: pp. 129-156. [Nice reviews of this essay in: Economic Geography (2008) 84(2): 239-40; Regional Studies (2009) 43(1): 151-2; Journal of Regional Science (2008)48(3): 664-666]
- James, A. (2006). Critical Moments in the Production of ‘Rigorous’ and ‘Relevant’ Cultural Economic Geographies. Progress in Human Geography 30(3): 1-20.
- James, A. (2006). On the Spatial Limits of Culture in High Tech Regional Economic Development. Chapter 8 Radcliffe, S. (ed.), Culture and Development in a Globalising World: Geographies, Actors and Paradigms, Routledge, London, pp. 176-202.
- James, A. (2005). Demystifying the Role of Culture in Innovative Regional Economies, Regional Studies 39(9): 1197-1216. Reprinted in Martin, R.L. and Sunley, P. (eds.), Economic Geography (Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences): Volume IV, The Cultural Economy, Routledge, London.
- James, A., Gray, M., Martin, R.L. and Plummer, P. (2004). (Expanding) the Role of Geography in Public Policy, Environment and Planning A 36 (11): 1901-1905.
- James, A. (2003). Regional Culture, Corporate Strategy and High Tech Innovation: Salt Lake City. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Geography and Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge.
- James, A. (2009). ‘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: A Journal of Feminist Geography 16(3): 354-356.
- James, A. (2009). ‘Globalization's Contradictions: Geographies of Discipline, Destruction and Transformation’ Conway, D. and Heynen, N. (eds. 2006): A Review. Cultural Geographies 16: 416.
- James, A. (2008) ‘Economic Geography: A Contemporary Introduction’ Coe, N.M., Kelly, P.F. and Yeung, H.W.C. (eds. 2007): A review. Journal of Economic Geography 8(4): 581-583.
- James, A. (2006). ‘Networks: Volumes I and II (Critical Studies in Economic Institutions 6)’ Grabher, H. and Powell, W.W (eds. 2004): A Review. Economic Geography 82 (2): 233-35.
Professional activities and outreach:
Recent seminars and presentations
Work-life conflict, recession and the gendered limits to learning. Invited seminar paper to the School of Geography, University of Nottingham, 14 November 2012.
Gendered philanthropy: the role of life course in shaping Somali migrant women and men’s caring across space. Paper presented by Kavita Datta (with Al James and Jane Pollard) to the Development Studies Association Annual Conference 2012, Panel on Gender, Migration and the Life Course.
Migrants in the post-recession: tracing the ‘diverse economies’ of Islamic charitable giving through East London. Paper presented by Kavita Datta and Al James (with Jane Pollard) to the 2012 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, Edinburgh 3–5 July 2012.
Women in Technology: A Forum For Solutions. Invited roundtable presentation to Digital Shoreditch Festival 2012: INNOVATE, 22 May 2012.
Work-life ‘balance’ and gendered (im)mobilities of knowledge and learning in high tech regional economies. Invited paper to the ‘Nomadic Work/Life in the Knowledge Economy’ International Seminar Series (V - Nomadic Work, Gender and Technology Mediation), University of Limerick, Ireland, 28 March 2012.
Alternative economic practices: Islamic philanthropic networks in London. Jane Pollard, with Kavita Datta and Al James. 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New York 24–27 February 2012.