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Professor Jon May

Professor of Geography, Director of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College, and Deputy Dean for Research, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

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

Profile

Jon May

I am a social and cultural geographer with a particular interest in (global) cities. My work uses an ethnographic approach to explore questions of inequality and social justice, with particular focus on the geographies of street homelessness, and of low paid-migrant labour. I am currently exploring the potential for more progressive responses to the problems of homelessness to be found in post-secular coalitions of protest and care, and new forms of urban encounter.

Alongside my teaching and research, I am a member of Queen Mary's Doctoral College Management Group and Deputy Dean for Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - overseeing the work of the Faculty's PhD students and post-doctoral researchers.

Beyond Queen Mary I am the external examiner for Human Geography at Kings College, University of London; an editor (Social Geography) of Geography Compass; on the editorial board of Social and Cultural Geography; and a member of the ESRC's Peer Review College.

Selected Publications:

  • 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 GEG5110 Society Culture and Space, and the Level 5 and 6 module GEG5112/6112 Urban Futures.

GEG5110 Society Culture and Space (co-taught with Professor Miles Ogborn) is taken in the 2nd year, introducing students to the key concerns of social and cultural geography. The module is based upon an understanding that societies and cultures are products of uneven and always negotiated relationships of power and that -  rather than pre-given, or 'natural' - the key dimensions of inequality (social class, race and ethnicity, gender, age and sexuality) are socially constructed, and that geography plays a crucial role in those constructions. The module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, with topics including: The regional geographies of gender; Rural poverty and homelessness; Race, class and inequality in the global city; The multiple geographies of sexuality; Representing landscape; The cultural geographies of food; and the Geographies of music.

The module is assessed by a combination of a 2 hour (2 question) unseen examination (worth 50%) and two course work exercises: A self-guided field walk in East London written up in the form of a 1500 word entry for Wikipedia; and 1500 word report offering a reading of a landscape painting or photograph of the student's own choice.

In feedback, students have praised the "engaging and encouraging lecturers", 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 Culture 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:

Over the past decade or so my research has focused on two key areas: 1) the geographies of street homelessness, and 2) the role of migrants in London's low-wage economy

Geographies of Street Homelessness

The Homeless Places Project, with Professor Paul Cloke (University of Exeter) and Sarah Johnsen (Herriot Watt) (ESRC, £124,000) 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 evident in the changing geographies of homeless service provision, and homeless people’s own understandings of voluntary service spaces and of the streets. Outputs and further details of the project can be found at The Homeless Places Project.

In a continuation of this work, Paul and I are currently examining the potential and limits of post-secularism as a form of resistance and alternative to the neoliberalisation of the city and of welfare. In a related vein, I am also working with Jennie Middleton (Kingston University) on a project exploring the potential for more progressive relations between street homeless people and members of the housed public articulated in new forms of urban encounter.

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. Outputs and further details of the project can be found at: Global Cities at Work.

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

 

Geographies of homelessness

  • 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 6 PhD students to successful completion, and am currently supervising a further 5. I would welcome students wishing to work on the following themes: homelessness, destitution, public space, welfare reform and the 3rd sector, post-secularism.

Past Students:

  • Richard HornseyMale Same-Sex Desire and Everyday Life in Post-War London (With Simon Rycroft, University of Sussex) (AHRC)
  • Corin Bailey - Crime and Social Exclusion in Kingston, Jamaica (with Cathy McIlwaine) (Commonwealth Scholarship)
  • Ken Fox - Cinematic Visions of Los Angeles: representations of identity and mobility in the cinematic city (with David Pinder) (self-funded)
  • Juan CockColombian Migrants, Latin American Publics: Ethnicity and transnational practices among Colombian Migrants in London (With Cathy McIlwaine) (QMUL Principal’s Studentship)
  • Olivia SheringhamThanks to London and to God: Living transnationally among Brazilian migrants in Londo and ‘back home’ in Brazil (with Cathy McIlwaine) (ESRC 1+3)
  • Francesco SalviniStruggles for the Right to the City: Assembling politics on the streets of Barcelona (with Jane Wills (QMUL Principal’s Studentship)

Current

  • Mara FerreriThe Cultural Politics of Vacant Land Re-use (with David Pinder) (QMUL Principal’s Studentship)
  • James ScottCommunity Organising in the Labour Party (with Jane Wills (ESRC +3)
  • Mark RaineyUrban Justice and the Production of Space: Law, justice and destitute asylum seekers in Manchester (with Scott Lash, Goldsmiths) (ESRC +4)
  • Emma HuntSpeculators, Farmers and Missionaries: the production of emptiness and the 'saving' of Detroit (with Tim Brown) (ESRC 1+3)
  • Liam HarneyExploring the Commons of the ‘Big Society’ (with Jane Wills) (ESRC 1+3)

Public engagement

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