Skip to content The Open University

OpenSpace Research Centre

The Open University's Centre for Geographical and Environmental Research

Doreen Massey, 1944-2016

(image source: By DarkMoMo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


As many of you will have heard, Doreen died on Friday 11 March. This is very sad, sudden and shocking news. All of you, we’re sure, will join with us in conveying our thoughts and sympathy to Doreen’s family.

Doreen was a true intellectual force in Geography and the wider academic community not just in Britain but across the globe, as you are all too aware. Her loss will be felt by us as a Department, for we had the privilege of knowing her personally, and by the University, to which she was truly and wholly committed. Doreen’s passing will also be a profound loss to all those who were inspired by her work, which was always stimulating, not least because it was sharpened by her keen sense political purpose and commitment.


Michael Pryke, Head of Department

Parvati Raghuram, Director of OpenSpace

Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University


Please leave your own message in the comments below and check back for details of a tribute event.

Follow us on twitter @OpenSpaceRC with #DoreenMassey and on facebook GeographyMatters for more messages and memories of Doreen.


Doreen's work and personality inspired so many across the Academy and beyond. Her passing now inspires many to record their memories of her and that first spark of inspiration. 

Ireland after NAMA  Doreen Massey 1944-2016 RIP

openDemocracy UK  The Doreen Massey We Knew

openDemocracyUK  How we will miss that chuckle, my friend, Doreen Massey

Visual/Method/Culture   remembering Doreen

Critical Legal Thinking Doreen Massey has died

AAG  In Memoriam: Doreen Massey

University of Barcelona Doreen Matters!

Queen Mary Queen Mary mourns passing of Prof Doreen Massey

the Guardian Doreen Massey Obituary

Manchester Evening News Tributes after the death of geographer...


By Olly Zanetti - 12 March 2016, 16:36


It was a privilege knowing Doreen over the last three years of her life. She was a truly inspirational individual. I will always cherish my memories of conversations with her.

I mourn for all of us who have lost such a dear, brilliant, inspiring friend.

I had the immense good fortune of knowing Doreen for 20 years. A genuine leader and a thoroughly decent person who cared for others and for her work.

Smart, purposeful, energetic, provocative and a generous supporter of early career people. Back in the early '90s I was a newly arrived PhD student in the Cambridge geography department, having jumped ship from Social and Political Sciences there when Doreen gave one of the first seminars I went to. 'Aha. So that's geography - I'm in the right place then'. She really filled the room in both senses - standing room only and everyone waiting on every word - including those that *knew* they disagreed with her. Just one of many occasions when I saw her fluent intelligence at work. I'm one of probably thousands of people who have been relieved to find a major figure not just giving us permission, but inciting us to do socially relevant and/or politically engaged academic work. Thanks Doreen. What a star.

Doreen Massey's work informed and inspired all of my own humble contributions to human geography. As a postgrad, a group reading of World City was a defining event for me. I was fortunate to hear Doreen speak on a couple of occasions and to speak personally with her once when she was warm and engaged. She will obviously be sorely missed as an scholar, a political force and as a person.

Sad to hear of the death of Prof Doreen Massey, one of the first academics I worked with at the OU, a passionate and inspirational person, who also shared a love of the North. I only worked with her once but she left a real impression on me.

Ten years as colleagues at the OU and twenty more years of conversations. How I shall miss that distinctive voice. Too soon to be gone but the work will live on and influence academic and political debates in years to come.

As a part timer in social science I worked with Doreen at summer school in the nineties and she was so friendly and supportive. Thanks Doreen!

As many of Chilean academic and students - beyond Geography issues - we feel very sorry for the lost of a wonderful person. We lament not to have had her in our Department of Geography at University of Concepcion, Chile.

I am so sad at this news. I was taught by Doreen and her team in the early 90s. Basically she transformed my whole understanding of geography and I never got over it. She has made me think and given me an ability to question place and peoples relationship within it that I am forever grateful for. RIP

I remember reading "In what sense a regional problem?" back in 1979 as a postgraduate at Reading and it blowing my mind. From then on Doreen never failed to written words and in person. I last saw her at Tampa AAG where she was invited by Eric Sheppard to accept the Presidential Achievement Award. We bumped into each other in the women's washrooms and had a long warm hug before she went to accept it. At her talk it was standing room only. I will miss her erudition and her politics and her marxism and her feminism and I will cherish my long hug.

Untimely. I was privileged to have Doreen & Carrie Paechter supervise my PhD. Doreen was a true original in many senses of the word and we have lost a great ideas person, writer, feminist & football fan.

So many of us have read Doreen Massey and understood that geography matters. She has inspired many to think differently about space, to engage unmaking places as well as 'doing geography'. She was for me an inspired and inspiring thinker on scale and the ways in which scales are intertwined in the making of geographies. I am grateful for her extraordinary intellectual generosity that is reflected in so many of the condolence comments. I cannot imagine the sadness of those who shared much more of their time and space in her company, but for those of us who engaged mostly from afar, we share that sadness and the appreciation of a wonderful woman whose gifts we cherish and share inner own teaching and making better places. Thanks to OU for this opportunity to come together in thanks.

Doreen`s work and her book For Space in particular has profoundly influenced me, but it was the small but powerful remarks that continue to resonate deeply and influence what kind of an academic I want to be. Doreen saying at the departmental meeting that we need to be excellent without being elitist. That she refused an OBE and a chair at Oxford for her then only consequential. This is the kind of academic I want to be. Doreen advising us PhD students on the train journey from MK to Euston that we should not support imperial tendencies in academia by going to the US for our overseas conference. Go to an Africa country instead she told me, I went to Kenya. Thank you, Doreen, I will try my best to continue to learn from you and the way you lived your life. I take solace in the fact that you died peacefully at your home and that Liverpool won the day before you left us.

Sad to hear this news. Doreen's work in three courses that I helped teach whilst with the OU between 1990 and 2014 was always well written accessible and above all highly informative and thoughtful.
I too remember well an interesting talk from her on the Cambridge region and hi-tech industries.
Geography has lost a shining light here.So sad.

Sad to hear this news. Doreen's work in three courses that I helped teach whilst with the OU between 1990 and 2014 was always well written accessible and above all highly informative and thoughtful.
I too remember well an interesting talk from her on the Cambridge region and hi-tech industries.
Geography has lost a shining light here.So sad.

Since when I went to college I have contact with your thinking and your work. You are one of the authors who inspires me and make me love Geography and the studies about the space. Rest in peace Doreen, your work will never be forgotten!

Inspirational, indefatigable colleague and friend. To be with Doreen was to spiral from the the politics of space, to geology, philosophy, Latin America, hatred of class and imperial privilege and academic pomposity, love of Liverpool FC, bird-watching with flask, sandwiches and laughter, and back again to politics and how geography matters. Scarily intellectual and enlivening by turns. All with lucidity, warmth, and optimism of the will. Thank you so much, Doreen.

If there is a seminar room in the nth-dimension, barricades and a speakers' platform in a parallel universe, I imagine Doreen debating with other truly great radical geographers: Peter Kropotkin, Jim Blaut and Neil Smith. Doreen presente!

My first meeting with Doreen was 1 hour after I had phoned her with a vague question about her research on industrial restructuring and unemployment. 'Why don't we meet for lunch?'. 'What now?' 'Why not?' One hour later a slight figure showed up at my office. 'Hello, I'm Doreen'. And so it was: always there, always positive, always supportive, always gently corrective. So sad and so hard to believe you won't be there again. But so much to celebrate.

As OU postgrads, we discussed the relation between activism and academia with Doreen whenever possible. She emphasised the need to engage in many kinds of activism, to involve different audiences in challenging a seemingly unassailable system, whether this meant ‘talking to the woman on the bus’, producing artwork and radio shows, or publicly refuting politicians’ claims with reports, statistics and open letters. When something hopeful had happened through an unusual piece of activism that I had observed or been involved in, I would call or write to Doreen, because I wanted to add to her ‘archive of the possible’, especially when she was not feeling well. Beyond being a mentor as an activist-scholar, Doreen was a role-model for me as someone who really embraced the full breadth of life – from watching the stars, birds or landscapes, to hanging out with friends in a noisy pub or football pitch. It is really hard to know that she and her incredible force and warmth are gone, but I am also trying to seek solace in the fact that her spirit will live on through her work and through the people she affected.

I first met Doreen stepping off the train at central station in Milton Keynes on the way to the Open University when arriving from Rio to begin a post-doctorate under her supervision. She, with her special blend of ironic tenderness, opened the conversation saying, “So, you are real….” Until then our contacts had been mediated by the Internet or friends such as Felix Driver and Luciana Martins. We then began to mark our paths on the crossroads of trajectories (a “space,” in Doreen’s terms) never before imagined, passages that would extend from coffees on cold afternoons at the British Library in London to hot lunches on sun-drenched beaches in Northeast Brazil or cold sunny days at Lake District (she loved so much). Five years later we translated "For Space" into Portuguese.
During all these encounters, what I learned to admire most in Doreen was her ability to move, without difficulty, from a more or less arid (yet never politically disassociated) theoretical discussion to plain yet profoundly human commentaries about such things as the details of a landscape (during train trips to Milton Keynes), the brilliance of a star (in the night sky over the valleys at Lake District), the semi-arid qualities of the caatinga (in the backlands of Northeast Brazil) or, simply, the way a spider wove its web on a winter morning at the Open University campus. Far from being one of those affected and aloof intellectuals, Doreen seemed to have remained loyal to her working class up-bringing on the outskirts of industrial Manchester. She always maintained her “feet on the ground”; in debate, she would defend her ideas unrelentingly and yet returned easily to “common sense” examples, to the simpler sentiments that intuitively enrich our daily lives.
Just trying to say how much Doreen will be missed.

It was, indeed, a great privilege to work with Doreen (and with Jane). I learned a tremendous amount. It feels extraordinary that she is no longer with us.

Very saddened to hear of Doreen's passing. My life as a geographer has been shaped by 'In what sense a regional problem', The Anatomy of Job Loss, Spatial Divisions of Labour, For Space, 'Geographies of responsibility'and World City, to just name some of the standout contributions Doreen has given us. From our first workshop together in 1980 on regional restructuring Doreen has been an inspiration and dialogue partner for J.K. Gibson-Graham. I feel very privileged to have been able to share the stage at the AAG in Florida just 2 years ago when Doreen presented her latest contribution, the Kilburn Manifesto. Feisty and sharp, warm and concerned--this is how I will remember Doreen. And I will never forget sitting on a hill in Hamstead Heath, not far from her flat, watching a red sun set over London, me at the start of my academic life and her, sharing the joys of intellectual and political commitment and love of place.

Con el Geografo Ovidio Delgado Mahecha y yo Gloria Cuartas estudiamos su obra y sabemos que otra geometria del poder es posible en America Latina se esta construyendo. Gracias a una Mujer Geografa que nos enseño el camino de la libertad

Con Doreen Massey sentimos la alegria de encontrar una geografia al servicio de la vida . Desde Colombia consolidamos un grupo de estudio de sus obras pero ante todo aplicarlas en los procesos de resistencia. Con el Geografo Ovidio Delgado Mahecha y yo Gloria Cuartas creemos en las geometrias del poder que consolidan espacios de Dignidad.

As a stunningly naive graduate Doreen supervised my PhD from 1987. By the OU river and in Kilburn she taught me grammar (!), the world of space, place and relational thinking. Life changing

Lately quite I studied as a student your books.
I loved how you think and how you wrote. You opened my horizons and thank you.
Rest in peace

We lost a lifelong friend. In Early 70s when my husband, Prof Necdet Teymur, was doing his PhD in Architecture and I was doing an MSc in Environmental Psychology we got to know Doreen's work at the Centre for Environmental Studies. This developed into a close academic relationship with Necdet and friendship for both. Doreen was most supportive when Necdet became unwell in early 00s, we continued to meet despite her very busy schedule. She was brilliant, involved, most enjoyable to be with, excited about the next project(s), warm and concerned. In July we had a wonderful afternoon at Queens Park that she knew so well, talking about politics, the middle east, birds and trees, taking photos, looking well and happy with her contagious lough - that is how I will remember her and I will miss her.

As an enthralled O.U. undergraduate I travelled to Cambridge to hear Doreen speak sometime in 1987. Seeing someone so passionate and honest means it remains one of my most important memories. Thank you Doreen - the world really is a better place because you had been in it.

We met just weeks ago but I was so deeply impressed with you, and found you instantly to be so engraved within me as a real friend, that I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear today. We planned for help with the pain and the walking, but more importantly, we planned to share our travel adventures, and laughed a lot at the very anticipation of that.
Wherever you are now, go in peace, and painlessness, and laugh out loud. YOU did it !

Doreen inspired my career in every way, from her intellectual depth, to her feminist praxis. I feel a deep sense of loss, but I also still feel her warmth and willingness to engage with so many of us. She was generous in her work and in her person -- even when I got her lost in Seattle, trying to find our dinner event! I have been so deeply inspired by her work and her own life. Hard to believe that she is gone - but she is still with me and so many of us in our work and our larger lives.

Doreen was alongside me at every step of my geographical work - from early inspiration to be a geographer, from my PhD at the Open University, to providing the ideas to work with, and as an inspiration for what the university scholar can do - and her passing is a terrible loss. Her life made the world a much better place.

The Geographical Association is saddened by the news that the eminent geographer Doreen Massey has passed away. Doreen was an Emeritus Professor at the Open University and her career in geography spanned several decades. During this time she exerted a profound influence on the discipline, for example through her work on the concept of place. For the Association, she performed an invaluable role as a critical friend, as one of our Honorary Vice Presidents.

GA President Steve Rawlinson said, "Doreen was a powerhouse of the Geography world who had an enormous impact whenever and wherever she spoke. Her influence and wise words will be sadly missed."

GA Chief Executive Alan Kinder said, "Like everything Doreen did, she brought great humanity as well as sharp intellect to the role of GA Honorary Vice President. We are extremely grateful for Doreen’s contribution to geography and to education. She will be greatly missed, but her powerful ideas will form an enduring legacy.”

I'm a Spanish sociologist whose spatial sensitivity was developed largely by Massey. Thank you Doreen. Descansa en Paz

I first met Doreen at an IBG conference in 1983, as a young graduate student. I got to know her a little better in the 1990s and asked her to contribute an essay to a History Workshop Journal feature on 'Re-thinking the idea of place'. From different directions the historian Raphael Samuel (who co-edited the feature with me) and Doreen Massey were doing exactly that. A few years later Doreen came along to a thinly-attended book launch of mine, and she stayed on for a pizza afterwards - these are the things you remember.

Doreen Massey was generous and critical in equal measure, and I just can't say how much we all owe to her for both of these things. Her OU colleagues and friends knew her personally, and their memories are cherished; yet how many more people encountered Doreen through her writings, especially students. Thanks to translators and colleagues in many parts of the world - Spain, Greece, Brazil, Japan and China - her work is still being encountered for the first time. And it is still inspiring!

As many people will know, Doreen was often extremely generous in collaborations with artists. I first met her in 1998, when I asked if I might interview her for a film I was about to make about the predicament of the UK’s housing stock. As it turned out, her contribution included what seemed to me the film’s most significant statements about this subject (e.g. “if what we’re talking about here is an inability of modern capitalism to cope with the domestic, in some way, and that, therefore, we end up with a dilapidated dwelling, maybe what’s at issue isn’t just the physical fabric, but the social relations of that dilapidated dwelling…”). We kept in touch, and in 2006 I asked if she would be an advisor on another project called somewhat evasively The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image. In the end, she took on a role as co-researcher, undertaking to contribute the equivalent of three months’ work over three years, a commitment she greatly exceeded. After more than three years, during which her insights and encouragement were invaluable, I had completed a film, and in response to it she then wrote an essay ‘Landscape/Space/Politics’ that is posted on the project’s web pages. To begin with, I worried that the project’s unplanned character might try her patience, but if it did, she never let on. We called the work undisciplined (or perhaps un-disciplined), not interdisciplinary. It was wonderful to know her and work with her, and I will miss her very much.

So deeply sad to lose Doreen. So many conversations. So much shared food. Drinking ouzo with a mutual friend from Greece. Going to the Tricycle together. Riding the bus from MK station to the OU. And talking. Always talking. Politics. Culture. Manchester. Feminism. Sexuality. Travels. Your death leaves a huge chasm. Thank you for your energy, passion, integrity, sense of fun, brilliant intellect, extraordinary political sensibility, generosity and joie de vivre. I cherish the time I was able to spend with you Doreen. I hope you knew what you meant to so many people, and what a huge difference you made. With love and great sadness.

If I ever had a good idea, that idea was inspired by the work of Doreen Massey. I still remember one of his lectures , in Glasgow , in 2004. Sometimes I think about her words, and about the potential that contemporary geography has not yet explored, inherent in her work. She will be with us for long.

And of course, there's at all times the additional benefit of getting free merchandise or particular gives for participating.<br><br>
Feel free to visit my web page ... make money online surveys legit (<a href="">http://commissionblackopsrev...)

It will not be one of the best answer if you wish to <a href="">make extra money online fast</a> simple money on-line, but <br><br>
in the event you're good at it then it can be <br><br>
definitely worth the effort.

Doreen’s ideas were a mind-expanding inspiration for me long before I met her – they have co-shaped how I think and act as a geographer. I was so excited when we managed to persuade her to come and give a high-profile lecture at Bonn University in 2005. The conversations that started then continued and grew for the last decade, as my partner and I became friends with Doreen and met up over the years in various parks in London, at ours….and of course in Kilburn. Doreen was charismatic, sharp, principled, argumentative, yet also unpretentious, generous, fun-loving and warm. That is as long as you did not phone her during a Liverpool match. She also exuded so much intellectual energy, passion and ideas that an evening with her left you buzzing for days. How we will miss her.

Thinking of her in these past days the image that keeps coming to my mind is that of a lighthouse. Like light from a lighthouse, Doreen’s ideas reached near and far – very far indeed. Across continents, across Geography and into other disciplines, and further beyond the academy, through her commitment to being a public intellectual and fellow activist. Whatever the political waves crashing up to her, she stood steadfast to her principles - and to feminism, socialism, justice and solidarity. She was fine with disagreeing, sometimes she thrived on it. Her perspective was distinct and like a lighthouse you could trust it and navigate by it. And yet she listened – especially to early-career researchers, especially to students, especially to non-Anglophone voices. She combined intellectual brilliance with passionate engagement and thus gave thousands of us not only license to be an engaged researcher, but by the way she lived she constantly challenged us to get off the fence and engage. She was a busy woman, in contact with so many people, and the intensity of her light beam did not stay long. Many people remember those moments of brightness, short moments interacting with her which really touched them. Doreen the person was inseparable from her ideas and her ideals. There is some solace in the simple truth that her ideas have changed our discipline and some of the world forever – the light has changed, but her intellectual legacy continues to shine, and will continue to reach far. Further, for many of us, honouring Doreen means not just remembering her ideas, but also the amazing woman she was - and the ideals she stood for and lived by.

So sad that Doreen is no longer here. She was an inspiration at the Centre for Environmental Studies in her work, her comments on her colleagues' work and as a feminist.

Though I work at the OU, paths not crossing mean I know of Doreen by her work and reputation only. But what work and what reputation! On the former, a public intellectual before it became necessary to discuss what a public intellectual should be. On the latter, I have seen friends and colleagues genuinely shaken and bereaved since her death, attesting to her collegiality and charisma. We - the OU, the academy, the Left - have lost a mighty figure. Let us defend and advance all of those in her memory.

As a second year Open University student I attended Summer School at Bath University in the middle of the 1984 Miners Strike. Professor Massey's tutorials were amazing and I still marvel at the way she inspired even the most diffident of us to contribute to debates, making us feel that our contribution was equal to the most confident of students. A conversation with her changed my life and led me to a career that I would never have explored without her encouragement. I will always remember her energy and enthusiasm for her subject. The world is a better place after having had Doreen Massey in it.

Much saddened to learn of Doreen's death. I was at Manchester High with her in the late '50s/early '60s and in the same A Level Geography set. It was clear even then that she would go on to achieve great things. She was funny, compassionate and a true Mancunian in the liberal tradition. I only had occasional contact with later in life, but remember her with great affection.

Doreen has been a true inspiration to me. Through two special Soundings Issues on 'emotional labour' she opened up the spaces to give voice to dialogues that were otherwise marginalised: the dialogues about care, emotions, feelings, nursing and women's work - and of other ways of expressing these dialogues through images, poetry, personal reflections - as an alternative to the often passive, third person academic voice - In 1999 and 2002 Soundings opened up topics that have since become prophetic: migration, refugees and global terrorism. Doreen has left us so there won't be an opportunity to see her 'one more time' - but her presence and being in the world will remain.

Someone had to mention Doreen's smile. If you were in awe of Doreen, as we all were, that smile disarmed you and said just treat me as a friend. I can forgive that she supported LFC because of her smile. Doreen would have been chuffed she got an obituary in the Manchester Evening News

gL78lG Really enjoyed this article.Thanks Again. Great.

oNM3SP Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about sex.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

OpenSpace Newsletter