Doreen Massey
Doreen Barbara Massey

(1944-01-03)3 January 1944
Manchester, England
Died11 March 2016(2016-03-11) (aged 72)
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
University of Pennsylvania
AwardsVictoria Medal (1994)
Prix Vautrin Lud (1998)
Scientific career
FieldsEconomic and social geography

Doreen Barbara Massey FRSA FBA FAcSS (3 January 1944 – 11 March 2016) was a British social scientist and geographer.[1] She specialized in Marxist geography, feminist geography, and cultural geography, as well as other topics. She was Professor of Geography at the Open University.[2]


Massey was born in Manchester, England, and spent most of her childhood in Wythenshawe, living on a council estate.[3] She studied at Oxford University[4] and later at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a master's degree in Regional Science.

She then began her career at a thinktank: the Centre for Environmental Studies (CES) in London. CES contained several key analysts of the contemporary British economy. There, Massey established a working partnership with Richard Meegan, among others. When CES closed down she then became Professor of Geography at the Open University.[5]

Massey retired in 2009 but remained a frequent media commentator, particularly on industry and regional trends. As Professor Emerita at the Open University she continued her speaking engagements and involvement in educational TV programmes and books.[6]

Doreen Massey's main fields of study were globalisation, regional uneven development, cities, and the reconceptualisation of place. Although associated with an analysis of contemporary western capitalist society, she also worked in Nicaragua, South Africa and Venezuela.

Her work on space, place and power has been highly influential within a range of related disciplines and research fields.


Economic geography

Massey's early work at CES established the basis for her spatial divisions of labour theory (Power Geometry), that social inequalities were generated by the unevenness of the capitalist economy, creating stark divisions between rich and poor regions and between social classes. "Space matters" for poverty, welfare and wealth.[7]

Over the years this theory has been refined and extended, with space and spatial relationships remaining central to her account of contemporary society.

Geography of gender

As a geographer Massey (1994,[8] 1999[9]) brought the impact of space and place on gendered experiences into the theoretical context of describing spatial ‘values’[10] in contemporary society, thus giving an added dimension, that of social grouping, of when justice is fair as well as equally accessed in space and place. She developed the concepts aired earlier by Bowlby et al[11] on gender-shaped geography. On the editorial board of SEEDS, Massey furthered the understanding of economic geography and related impacts on women's lives as a constant theme throughout the practice-based regional reports, in a series edited by Robin Murray at S.E.E.D.S.[12]

Sense of place

While Massey has argued for the importance of place, her position accords with those arguing against essentialised or static notions,[13] where:

Massey used the example of Kilburn High Road in north-west London to exemplify what she termed a "progressive" or "global" sense of place, in the essay "A Global Sense of Place".[14] In a Podcast interview with Social Science Space Massey talks about the idea of physical space being alive: "A lot of what I've been trying to do over the all too many years when I’ve been writing about space is to bring space alive, to dynamize it and to make it relevant, to emphasize how important space is in the lives in which we live. Most obviously I would say that space is not a flat surface across which we walk; Raymond Williams talked about this: you’re taking a train across the landscape – you’re not traveling across a dead flat surface that is space: you’re cutting across myriad stories going on. So instead of space being this flat surface it's like a pincushion of a million stories: if you stop at any point in that walk there will be a house with a story. Raymond Williams spoke about looking out of a train window and there was this woman clearing the grate, and he speeds on and forever in his mind she’s stuck in that moment. But actually, of course, that woman is in the middle of doing something, it’s a story. Maybe she's going away tomorrow to see her sister, but really before she goes she really must clean that grate out because she’s been meaning to do it for ages. So I want to see space as a cut through the myriad stories in which we are all living at any one moment. Space and time become intimately connected."[15]

Awards and honours

♯ Doreen Massey declined the award of an Order of the British Empire (OBE)



  1. ^ Lee, Roger. "Doreen Barbara Massey 3 January 1944 – 11 March 2016 elected Fellow of the British Academy 2002" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 July 2020.
  2. ^ Open University. "Prof Doreen Massey – Profile". Retrieved 16 June 2008.
  3. ^ "Magazine / Geographical". Archived from the original on 23 March 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  4. ^ Staff (17 March 2016). "In Memoriam: Doreen Massey". AAG Newsletter. Archived from the original on 24 May 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Staff Profile Prof Doreen Massey". Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  6. ^ Paul Britton (13 March 2016). "Tributes after the death of geographer and acclaimed social scientist Professor Doreen Massey". men.
  7. ^ Featherstone, David (27 March 2016). "Doreen Massey obituary". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Massey, D.B. (1994). Space, place, and gender. US: University of Minnesota Press.
  9. ^ Massey, D., Allen, J. and Sarre, P., 1999., D. (1999). Human geography today. online: e-book.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Bissett Scott, S.J. (2018). 'Spatial Justice': Towards a values-led framework of regeneration outcomes in UK planning (doctoral). UK: Anglia Ruskin University. p. 19.
  11. ^ Bowlby, S., Lewis, J., McDowell, L. and Foord, J., S. (1989). "The geography of gender". New Models in Geography: The Political Economy Perspective. 2: 157–175.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "South East Economic Development Strategy (SEEDS)".
  13. ^ Dovey, Kim: Becoming Places, Routledge, 2010
  14. ^ Massey, Doreen (24 June 1991). "A Global Sense of Place". Marxism Today. 38.
  15. ^ Doreen Massey on Space_Social Science Bites on YouTube
  16. ^ Massey, D.B. (1994). Space, place, and gender. US: University of Minnesota Press. Perlego Books