Menu

School of Geography

People menu

Professor Jon May

Professor of Geography

email: j.may@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 8925
Location: Geography Building, Room 124

Profile

Jon May

I am a social geographer with a particular interest in issues of inequality and social justice and neoliberal welfare reform. My work uses an ethnographic approach to explore questions of inequality and social justice on the ground, through the experiences of food banking, homelessness, and low wage work. I am particularly interested in exploring sites of potential challenge to neoliberal political and ethical values and practices.

Beyond Queen Mary I am the external examiner for BA/MA Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh, and the MA Social Research at the University of Sheffield, on the editorial board of Social and Cultural Geography; and a member of the ESRC's Peer Review College. I am a Trustee of Bow Foodbank, and of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN).

Selected Publications:

  • Williams, A., Cloke, P., May, J., and Goodwin, M. (2016) ‘Contested space: the contradictory political dynamics of food banking in the UK’, Environment and Planning A doi:10.1177/0308518X16658292
  • Cloke, P., May, J. and Williams, A. (2016) ‘The geographies of food banks in the mean times’, Progress in Human Geography doi: 10.1177/0309132516655881
  • May, J. and Cloke, P. (2014) ‘Modes of attentiveness: Reading for difference in geographies of homelessness’, Antipode 46 (4): 894-920
  • Cloke, P., May, J., Johnsen, S. (2010) Swept up Lives? Re-envisioning the homeless city. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford. 280pp.
  • Devertueil, G., May, J., and Von Mahs, J. (2009) ‘Complexity not collapse: recasting geographies of homelessness in a ‘punitive age’’, Progress in Human Geography 33 (5): 646–666.
  • Cloke, P. May, J. and Johnsen, S. (2008) ‘Performativity and affect in the homeless city’, Environment and Planning: Society and Space 26 (2): 241–263.
  • Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and McIlwaine,  C. (2010) Global Cities at Work: New migrant divisions of  labour. Pluto Press, London. 288pp.
  • Wills, J., May, J. Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and  McIlwaine,  C. (2009) ‘London’s migrant division of labour’, European  Urban and Regional Studies 3: 257–271.
  • May, J., Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and McIlwaine, C. (2007) ‘Keeping London working: global cities, the British state, and London’s new migrant division of labour’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32: 151–67.

Teaching

My teaching is directly shaped by my research interests. I currently teach the Level 5 undergraduate module GEG5127 Society and Space, and the Level 5 and 6 module GEG5112/6112 Urban Futures.

GEG5127  Society and Space is taken in the 2nd year, introducing students to the key concerns of social geography. It centers upon an understanding of societies as products of uneven and always negotiated relationships of power. Drawing mainly but not exclusively on examples from the UK, it shows that social experience and identities are differentiated according to the social constructions of race and ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality and that, rather than simply varying across space, geography itself is central to the construction of social difference. The module aims to develop skills of critical social interpretation on the part of the students. Topics include: The geographies of race and ethnicity; Race, class and inequality in the global city; The purification of public space and the collapse of homeless space; The gendering of urban space; The geographies of sexuality; Rural homelessness and poverty.

The module is assessed by 100% coursework, consisting of a 2000 word mock Wikipedia entry based upon a self-guided field walk in East London (50%), and 3000 word course work essay (50%).

In feedback, students have praised the "engaging and encouraging lecturer", the interesting topics and the way in which "seminars really helped me to engage with the key points", and the "different form of assessment, that allowed me to develop wider skills" and to "really engage with the literature and see its relevance to the real world".

 

GEG5112/6112 (Urban Futures) builds on ideas developed in Society and Space to explore recent changes to north American and western European cities. The module can be taken in the second or third year. Using Los Angeles and Las Vegas as examples, and the notion of the 'post-metropolis' as an organising framework, students explore the key processes driving recent changes to our cities (globalisation and economic restructuring), the nature of those changes (rising inequality, and the emergence of new urban forms - from gentrification, to 'edge cities'), and responses to those changes (both the increased concern with urban security, and the increased 'theming' of urban environments).

The module is organised around an innovative program of seminars (combining outline lectures, videos, and student presentations), and a 10 day residential field class in Los Angeles and Las Vegas that includes visits to a ‘master planned community’ in Orange County, California; community organisations in South-Central Los Angeles; group work in Korea Town, Venice Beach, Skid Row and Downtown Los Angeles; and ethnographic work on the Strip and in the themed casinos and hotels of Las Vegas.

The module is assessed by 100% course work, with students completing a detailed Learning Log (reporting on their learning during the seminar course), a course work essay, and Field Diary (outlining their experiences in Los Angeles and Las Vegas).

In feedback students found the module helped them to "think about cities in new ways", found the field trip "brilliant", "eye opening", and the course itself "the best I have taken at university".

Research

Research interests:

Framed by a concern with social justice, and alternatives to neoliberal welfare reform, over the past decade or so my research has focused on three key areas: 1) the politics of food banking, 2) the geographies of street homelessness, and 2) the role of migrants in London's low-wage economy

The politics of food banking

Emergency Food Provision in the UK (British Academy £8,516) with Paul Cloke (University of Exeter), Andrew Williams (University of Cardiff) and Liev Cherry (Queen Mary University of London). The recent and rapid rise in the number of food banks in Britain has generated significant public and political debate. Framing their work in neo-liberal political economy and welfare, academic accounts of food banking have tended to be highly critical. Working with food bank providers and users, and examining both more familiar and a range of alternative approaches to food banking, this project explores food banks as a response to food insecurity and as potential sites of challenge to neoliberal political and ethical values and practices.

Geographies of Street Homelessness

The Homeless Places Project, and related work with Paul Cloke (University of Exeter) (ESRC, £124,000) has sought to extend overly narrow and dystopic accounts of neoliberalism and urban revanchism by examining instead the various and complex experiences of and responses to street homelessness in contemporary Britain. Focusing on the potential and limits of post-secularism as a form of resistance and alternative to the neoliberalisation of the city and of welfare, our work has traced the changing geographies of homeless service provision, and homeless people’s own understandings of voluntary service spaces and of the streets.

Migrant Divisions of Labour

The Global Cities at Work project, with QMUL colleagues Kavita Datta, Cathy McIlwaine and Jane Wills (ESRC £240,000) explored the role of labour market policy, subcontracting, and migration in shaping London's low-wage labour market and a distinctive Migrant Division of Labour in contemporary London, the diverse experiences of low-paid migrant workers themselves, and the politics attendant to such divisions.

Total funding secured (Pre FEC): £431, 636 (excluding ESRC studentships)

2014-16   
British Academy (£8,516) Emergency Food Provision in the UK (with Paul Cloke,       University of Exeter, Andrew Williams, University of Cardiff, and Liev Cherry, Queen Mary University of London). On-going

2005–8 
Economic and Social Research Council (£240, 670) Global Cities at Work: migrant labour and employment in London (With Dr Kavita Datta, Dr Cathy McIlwaine, and Professor Jane Wills [Principal Applicant] Department of Geography, Queen Mary). Final report graded: Outstanding

2005 
Oxfam (£5000) Unison (£5000) Greater London Authority (£5000) Department of Geography, Queen Mary University of London (£4700) London Citizens (infrastructural support) (Total funding £19,700) London Citizen’s Summer Academy: Survey of Low Paid Workers in London (With Dr Kavita Datta, Dr Cathy McIlwaine, and Professor Jane Wills, Department of Geography, Queen Mary) June-August 2005

2003 
New Zealand High Commission (£2000) Emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough in Auckland, New Zealand.

2001–4 
Economic and Social Research Council (£124, 994): Homeless Places: the uneven geographies of provision for single homeless people (Principal applicant: Professor Paul Cloke, University of Exeter). Final report graded: Outstanding

1999 
Providence Row Housing Association (£10,000): Wet Shelter Evaluation.

1998 
Housing Corporation Innovation and Good Practice Grant (£14,500): Customer Service Standards and the Joint Commissioning Process (Co-applicant with Professor Peter Ambrose, University of Brighton)

1998 
Brighton and Hove City Council (£7,756): Housing Advice and Information Services: ‘Best Value’ evaluation (Co-applicant with Professor Peter Ambrose, University of Brighton)

1997 
School of Cultural and Community Studies (£500) Research Development Fund: Homeless Histories Project

1995 
British Academy Small Grants Award (£3000): Education and Citizenship - mapping the land in the 1996 Land Use UK Project. (Co-applicant with Dr. A. Binns and Dr. S. Rycroft, University of Sussex).

Examples of research funding:

Total funding secured (Pre FEC): £423, 120

2005–8Economic and Social Research Council (£240, 670) Global Cities at Work: migrant labour and employment in London (With Dr Kavita Datta, Dr Cathy McIlwaine, and Professor Jane Wills [Principal Applicant] Department of Geography, Queen Mary). Final report graded: Outstanding
2005Oxfam (£5000) Unison (£5000) Greater London Authority (£5000) Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London (£4700) London Citizens (infrastructural support) (Total funding £19,700) London Citizen’s Summer Academy: Survey of Low Paid Workers in London (With Dr Kavita Datta, Dr Cathy McIlwaine, and Professor Jane Wills, Department of Geography, Queen Mary) June-August 2005
2003New Zealand High Commission (£2000) Emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough in Auckland, New Zealand.
2001–4Economic and Social Research Council (£124, 994): Homeless Places: the uneven geographies of provision for single homeless people (Principal applicant: Professor Paul Cloke, University of Exeter). Final report graded: Outstanding
1999Providence Row Housing Association (£10,000): Wet Shelter Evaluation.
1998Housing Corporation Innovation and Good Practice Grant (£14,500): Customer Service Standards and the Joint Commissioning Process (Co-applicant with Professor Peter Ambrose, University of Brighton)
1998Brighton and Hove City Council (£7,756): Housing Advice and Information Services: ‘Best Value’ evaluation (Co-applicant with Professor Peter Ambrose, University of Brighton)
1997School of Cultural and Community Studies (£500) Research Development Fund: Homeless Histories Project
1995British Academy Small Grants Award (£3000): Education and Citizenship - mapping the land in the 1996 Land Use UK Project. (Co-applicant with Dr. A. Binns and Dr. S. Rycroft, University of Sussex).

Publications


Swept Up Lives

Global Cities at work

timespace
timespace
Virtual Geographies
Virtual Geographies

For a full list of publications see PubLists

 

Food banking

  • Williams, A., Cloke, P., May, J., and Goodwin, M. (2016) ‘Contested space: the contradictory political dynamics of food banking in the UK’, Environment and Planning A doi:10.1177/0308518X16658292
  • Cloke, P., May, J. and Williams, A. (2016) ‘The geographies of food banks in the mean times’, Progress in Human Geography doi: 10.1177/0309132516655881  

Geographies of homelessness

  • May, J. and Cloke, P. (2014) ‘Modes of attentiveness: Reading for difference in geographies of homelessness’, Antipode 46 (4): 894-920
  • Cloke, P., May, J. and Johnsen, S. (2010) Swept up Lives? Re-envisioning the homeless city. Wiley-Blackwell, London. 280pp.
  • May, J. (in press, 2013) ‘Exclusion’ in Cloke, P., Crang, P. and Goodwin, M. (eds) Introducing Human Geography (3rd Edition). London, Arnold.
  • Cloke, P., Johnsen, S. and May, J. (2012) ‘Ethical Citizenship? Faith-based volunteers and the ethics of providing services for homeless people’, in Beaumont, J., Cloke, P. and Vranken, J. (eds) Faith, Exclusion and Welfare in European Cities: The FBO phenomenon. Policy Press, Bristol. pp.127-154
  • Deverteuil, G., May, J. and Von Mahs, J. (2009) ‘Complexity not collapse: Re-casting the geographies of homelessness in a ‘punitive age’’, Progress in Human Geography 33(5): 646-666
  • Johnsen, S., May, J. and Cloke, P. (2008) ‘Imag(in)ing homeless places: Using auto-photography to (re)examine the geographies of homelessness’, Area40 (2): 194–207.
  • Cloke, P. May, J. and Johnsen, S. (2008) ‘Performativity and affect in the homeless city’, Environment and Planning: Society and Space 26 (2): 241–263.
  • May, J. (2008) ‘Of Nomads and Vagrants: Single Homelessness and Narratives of Home as Place’, in Oakes, T. S. and Price, P.L. (eds) The Cultural Geography Reader. Routledge, London: pp. 334–342.
  • Cloke, P., Johnsen, S. and May, J. (2007) ‘The periphery of care: emergency services for homeless people in rural areas’, Journal of Rural Studies 23: 387–401.
  • May, J., Johnsen, S. and Cloke, P. (2007) ‘Alternative cartographies of homelessness: rendering visible British women’s experiences of ‘visible’ homelessness’, Gender, Place and Culture 14 (2) 121–40.
  • May, J., Cloke, P., and Johnsen, S. (2006) ‘Shelter at the margins: New Labour and the changing state of emergency accommodation for single homeless people in Britain’, Policy and Politics 34 (4): 711–30.
  • May, J., Johnsen, S. and Cloke, P. (2005) 'Re-phasing neo-liberalism: New Labour and Britain's crisis of street homelessness', Antipode 37 (4): 703–30.
  • Cloke, P., Johnsen., S. and May, J. (2005) ‘Exploring ethos? Discourses of charity in the provision of emergency services for homeless people’,Environment and Planning A 37 (3): 385–402.
  • Johnsen, S., Cloke, P., and May, J. (2005) ‘Day centres for homeless people: spaces of care or fear?’, Social and Cultural Geography 6 (6): 787–811.
  • Johnsen, S. Cloke, P., and May, J. (2005) ‘Transitory spaces of care: serving homeless people on the street’, Health and Place 11 (4): 323–36.

Migrant Divisions of Labour

  • Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and McIlwaine, C. (2010) Global Cities at Work: New migrant divisions of labour. Pluto Press, London. 288pp
  • Datta, D., McIlwaine, C., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and Wills,  J. (2010) ‘A migrant ethic of care’ Negotiating care and caring among migrant workers in London’s low pay economy?, Feminist Review 94: 93–116.
  • Datta, D., McIlwaine, C., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and Wills,  J. (2009) ‘Men on the move? Embodied narratives of migration  and work among low paid men in London’, Social and Cultural Geography 10 (8): 853–873.
  • Wills, J., May, J. Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and  McIlwaine,  C. (2009) ‘London’s migrant division of labour’, European  Urban and Regional Studies 3: 257–271.
  • Wills, K., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and McIlwaine,  C. (2009) ‘Religion at work: The role of faith-based  organizations in the London living wage campaign’, Cambridge Journal  of Regions, Economy and Society 2 (3); 443–461.
  • May, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., McIlwaine, C. and Wills, J. (2008) ‘Travelling neoliberalism: Polish and Ghanaian migrant workers in London’, in Smith, A., Stenning, A. and Willis, K. (eds) Social Justice and Neoliberalism: Global perspectives, London, Zed. Pp. 61–89.
  • Herbert, J., May, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., McIlwaine, C. and Wills, J. (2008) ‘Multicultural living? Experiences of everyday racism amongst Ghanaian migrants in London’, European Urban and Regional Studies, 15 (2): 103–17.
  • May, J., Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and McIlwaine, C. (2007) ‘Keeping London working: global cities, the British state, and London’s new migrant division of labour’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32: 151–67.
  • Datta, K., McIlwaine, C., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., May, J. and Wills, J. (2007) ‘From coping strategies to tactics: London’s low-pay economy and migrant labour’ British Journal of Industrial Relations 45 (2): 404–32.
  • Datta, K., McIlwaine, C., Wills, J., Evans, Y., Herbert, J., and May, J. (2007) ‘The new development finance or exploiting migrant labour? Remittance sending among low-paid migrant workers in London’, International Development Planning Review, 29 (1) 43–67.
  • Evans, Y. Wills, J., Datta, K., Herbert, J., McIlwaine, C. and May, J. (2007) ‘‘Subcontracting by stealth’ in London’s hotels: impacts and implementation for labour organising’, Just Labour: A Canadian Journal of Work and Society 10: 85–98.

PhD Supervision

I have supervised 8 PhD students to successful completion, and am currently supervising a further 5.

I would be happy to discuss your ideas with you prior to application, and would welcome students wishing to work on any of the following broad areas:

  • food banking
  • welfare reform
  • geographies of care and encounter
  • the 3rd sector
  • post-secularism
  • homelessness
  • destitution
  • public space

Current Students

  • Mark RaineyTime in the Shelter, Time on the Street: Refused asylum seekers and the tragedy of the border (Primary Supervisor, with Scott Lash, Goldsmiths) (ESRC +4)
  • Liev CherrySpeculators, Farmers and Missionaries: the production of emptiness and the 'saving' of Detroit (Primary Supervisor, with Tim Brown) (ESRC 1+3)
  • Liam HarneyThe E14 Expedition: Facilitating Public Formation through Place-Based Participatory Action Research (Second Supervisor, with Primary Supervisor Jane Wills) (ESRC 1+3)
  • Theo Barry-Born - Informal housing practices and urban marginality (co-supervisor with Cathy McIlwaine) (ESRC 1+3)
  • Rosalie Warnock - What are the implications of recent changes to the welfare state on the citizen-status of low-income 16-24 year-olds in the UK? (co-supervisor with Jane Wills) (ESRC 1+3)

Completed

  • James ScottThe party and its problems: spatial implications of the turn to community organising within the British Labour Party (Second Supervisory, with Primary Supervisor Jane Wills (ESRC +3) (2016)
  • Mara FerreriThe Cultural Politics of Vacant Land Re-use (Co-supervisor with David Pinder) (QMUL Principal’s Studentship) (2015)
  • Francesco SalviniStruggles for the Right to the City: Assembling politics on the streets of Barcelona (Primary Supervisor, with Jane Wills (QMUL Principal’s Studentship) (2014)
  • Olivia SheringhamThanks to London and to God: Living transnationally among Brazilian migrants in Londo and ‘back home’ in Brazil (Second Supervisor, with Primary Supervisor Cathy McIlwaine) (ESRC 1+3) (2011)
  • Juan CockColombian Migrants, Latin American Publics: Ethnicity and transnational practices among Colombian Migrants in London (Second supervisor, with Primary Supervisor Cathy McIlwaine) (QMUL Principal’s Studentship) (2009)
  • Ken Fox - Cinematic Visions of Los Angeles: representations of identity and mobility in the cinematic city (Primary Supervisor) (self-funded) (2004)
  • Corin Bailey - Crime and Social Exclusion in Kingston, Jamaica (Primary Supervisor, with Cathy McIlwaine) (Commonwealth Scholarship) (2002)
  • Richard HornseyMale Same-Sex Desire and Everyday Life in Post-War London (Primary Supervisor, with Simon Rycroft, University of Sussex) (AHRC) (2001)

Public engagement

Bookmark and Share
Return to top