Doreen Massey in memoriam

Doreen MasseyAs issue 62 of Soundings was going to press, we received the terrible news that Doreen Massey, our great friend and fellow editor had died, on 11 March 2016.  To meet Doreen was to know, instantly, you were in the company of brilliance. She was special. She had presence. You remember your first encounter with Doreen and, chances are, how it changed what you thought about something important. Doreen didn’t hold back and didn’t waste words. She held opinions on everything: they were intricately thought through and often went against the grain. She was rigorous in her everyday conversations and she wouldn’t permit lazy thinking or easy answers. She would never shy away from a challenge - politically, intellectually, personally. But this critical independence of thought was matched only by her loyalty to her friends and collaborators, and to socialism and the radical left.

Doreen knew that things could change. She’d been an instrumental part of successful left movements the world over: from Nicaragua to the Greater London Council, from Chavez’s Venezuela to Syriza in Greece; Doreen’s views and advice were sought by people who would use it to transform the real world. Theory was never abstract for Doreen Massey. A full version of Ben Little’s tribute to Doreen is available here.

We have collected together some of the tributes to Doreen, listed below in no particular order. If you would like to add a link, or share your memories of Doreen, please email us at or add a comment on our Soundings Facebook page.

Tributes to Doreen Massey

Hilary Wainright: ‘Her continuing interest in space and power led her to a long standing engagement with political change in Venezuela. I remember how chuffed she was that her concept of power-geometries was taken up as part of the effort to extend grassroots democracy and participatory democracy … Viva Doreen! Viva the transformation of geometries of power! Viva!’ Read more

Rob Kitchin: ‘Doreen was big hearted, generous, witty, enthusiastic, and encouraging, but she also didn’t mind a fight and could happily demolish an opponent in a debate. A feminist and a socialist she didn’t just write about the world but enacted her beliefs, being very active in policy debates, protest and politics.’ Read more

Gillian Rose: ‘I remember her tiny frame absolutely filling one enormous lecture hall with energy and passion, extemporising from handwritten notes, intensifying the entire space.  I can hear her voice now, and her laughter.’ Read more

James Marriott: ‘She never gave up. She rolled out like dawn breaking.’ Read more

Jeremy Gilbert and Jo Littler: ‘She showed that there are many spaces to intervene against those who don’t want to share the wealth: whether working with international, national or local governments, at universities, through writing, by taking part in grassroots activism or by ringing into Radio 5 Live. She was as keen on encouraging the everyday intervention just as much as the major project.’ Read more

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos: ‘Doreen embodied in life what she wrote in her books. She was one of the most humblingly accomplished human beings I have ever encountered.’ Read more

Joe Smith: ‘Doreen gave one of the first seminars I went to. ‘Aha. So that’s geography - I’m in the right place then’ … 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.’ (from Open Space Research Centre) Read more

Uli Beisel: ‘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 … 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.’ (from Open Space Research Centre) Read more

David Featherstone: ‘Doreen would often go to matches with her sister Hilary and was a frequent visitor to her home in the Lake District. On match days you might find them in a foggy valley singing You’ll Never Walk Alone to the sheep. Massey loved walking, bird-watching and the night sky.’ Read more

Ellie O’Hagan, Dulcie Fairhurst, Rachel Yates: ‘Doreen was supportive of the work Class is doing, but she was also supportive of us – its staff of young women. She was very encouraging, and we all admired her immensely. In Doreen, we felt we had an ally. Her feminism was not just theory; it was something she did, and something she passed on. We will always be grateful for what she gave us.’ Read more