Michelle Buckley

Michelle Buckley
Assistant Professor

Research Interests: 

I am an urban and economic geographer whose research lies at the intersections of urbanization, work and employment and labour migration. Two broad areas of interest currently drive my research:

Developing intersectional perspectives on the labour of urbanization

Who builds the city, and under what conditions? My research explores the contemporary role that migrant workers play in producing, maintaining, and transforming urban built environments. Over the past two decades, precarious forms of temporary, foreign labour have become an increasingly prevalent feature of construction sectors in a range of cities across the Global North and South. Drawing on approaches from anticolonial urban scholarship, feminist political economy and critical urban theory, this research highlights the ways that gender, ethno-nationality, class and citizenship are mobilized and produced through the incorporation of migrant workers in the urbanization process. I look to subfields such as labour geography and critical border studies to re-theorize urbanization, and highlight the centrality of construction work – especially the labour of workers on the margins of this sector – to the production  and destruction of value in the built environment.

Exploring the urbanization of capital and labour in Gulf Cooperation Council economies

A second area of interest has been the political economic restructuring currently taking place in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States. In a time where processes of neoliberalization, regional economic integration and ‘post-oil’ strategies of economic diversification have been unfolding across the region, I have been interested in the ways that efforts to re-engineer Gulf economies have involved the increasing use of urban built environments and their attendant components – particularly urban mega-projects, construction markets and circuits of urban development finance – to institute these agendas. I have sought to map some of these new capital-urban relationships, and to consider the socio-political implications for migrant construction workers as Gulf cities establish a host of new ties to the global economy.

Teaching Interests: 

Teaching Responsibilities for 2016-2017

  • GGRA03 Cities and Environments
  • GGRC13 Urban Political Geography
  • JPG1809 Spaces of Work


Journal articles

Book chapters

  • Buckley, M. and Reid-Musson, E (forthcoming 2017) ‘Urbanization as a bordering practice”, in Jonas, A., K. Ward, B. Miller and D. Wilson (eds) Handbook on Spaces of Urban Politics. Routledge.
  • Ogunyankin, G. and M. Buckley (forthcoming 2017) “Incremental and instant development: informal and spectacular urbanisms”, invited submission for Bain, A. and L. Peake (eds.) Urbanization in a Global Context: A Canadian Readers’ Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Buckley, M. (forthcoming 2017) “Migrant Labor” in N. Castree, M. Goodchild, W. Liu, A. Kobayashi, R. Marston, and  D. Richardson (eds), The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology.
  • Buckley, M. (2015) “Construction Work, ‘Bachelor’ Builders and the Intersectional Politics of Urbanization in Dubai.” In A. Hanieh, A. Khalaf and O. El Shehabi (Eds.) Transit States: Labour, Migration & Citizenship in the Gulf. London: Pluto Press. Pp.132-152.

Commissioned reports

  • Buckley, M., A. Zendel, J. Biggar, L. Frederikson & J. Wells (2016) Migrant Work & Employment in the Construction Sector. International Labour Organization, Geneva.


  • Research Associate, Cities Centre
  • Member, Association of American Geographers
  • Fellow, Royal Geographical Society (RGS)
  • Member, RGS Geographies of Justice Working Group