Doreen Massey FRSA FBA was born in Wythenshawe in 1944 and she is a contemporary British social scientist and geographer, and currently serving as Professor of Geography at the Open University. She studied at Oxford and Philadelphia, beginning her career with a think-tank, the Centre for Environmental Studies (CES) in London.
CES contained sveral key analysts of the contemporary British economy, and she established a working partnership with Richard Meegan, among others. CES was closed down and she moved into academia at the OU. After a distinguished career, she won the Prix Vautrin Lud (the ‘Nobel de Géographie’) in 1998.
She is a relatively frequent media commentator, particularly on industry and regional trends, and in her role as Professor at the OU she is involved in several educational TV programmes and books, most notably 'Living in Wythenshawe' in The Unknown City, Contesting Architecture and Social Space.
Outline of her arguments:
Doreen Massey's main fields of study are globalisation, regional uneven development, cities, and the reconceptualisation of place. Although associated with an analysis of contemporary western capitalist society, she has also worked in Nicaragua and South Africa. Her early work at CES established the basis for her 'spatial divisions of labour' theory (Power Geometry), that social inequalities were generated by the uneveness of the capitalist economy, creating stark divisions between rich and poor regions and between social classes. 'Space matters' for poverty, welfare and wealth. Over the years this theory has been refined and extended, with space and spatial relationships remaining central to her account of contemporary society.
While she has argued for the importance of place, her position accords with those arguing against essentialised or static notions, where:
- places do not have single identities but multiple ones.
- places are not frozen in time, they are processes.
- places are not enclosures with a clear inside and outside.
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'.