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Michael Samers
Professor of Economic and Urban Geography
Affiliated faculty, International Studies
Director of Graduate Studies

Originally from Stamford, Connecticut in the suburbs of New York City, I received a BA in Geography from Clark University in Worcester, Massachussets in 1988, which included 6 months at the Université de Dijon (now the Université de Bourgogne). I then went on to study for my Masters of Science in Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1991). From there I decided to undertake my D.Phil (PhD) at Oxford University, under the supervision of David Harvey and Erik Swyngedouw. My doctoral thesis  (dissertation) focused on the "Production and regulation of North African immigrants in the Paris automobile industry, 1970-1990. While still finishing my D.Phil at Oxford, I accepted my first academic position at the University of Liverpool, and after 7 years in Liverpool, I moved to the University of Nottingham in 2002 and eventually became a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in 2005. I left Nottingham in 2006 to return to the United States, and accept an Associate Professorship at the University of Kentucky. In May 2018, I was promoted to Full Professor, and assumed this role on July 1, 2018. 

*** For the 2013-2014 academic year, I was in France on a Fulbright Fellowship, and based at CERAPS at the Universite de Lille II *** 

My research and teaching interests lie broadly in economic and urban geography, but particularly in the political-economic, economic, urban, and socio-theoretical dimensions of migration/immigration, the relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and labor markets, as well as international finance. In the last few years, I  published an article (together with Karen Lai, Durham University) on the economic geography of FinTech; on AI, robotics, and employment; on cities, migration and governance (with Felicitas Hillmann, Technical University, Berlin); and on welfare policies and entrepreneurship in France.
I have studied these issues in the context of the European Union, and especially France, although I am also concerned with comparisons between the European Union and the United States

My relevant publications can be found further below. 

Advising/supervising graduate students

I am always excited about advising critical/theoretically-oriented, independently-minded, and intellectually-driven Masters and PhD students in the broad fields of economic and urban geography or migration/immigration. Having said that, you should consider my more specific research interests before applying to work with me. If you have questions about the 'fit' between my own work and yours, please feel free to contact me.

In terms of economic geography then, I am eager to advise students who wish to research the political economy of particular economic sectors, and the relationship between these sectors and labor, especially the classed, racialized, and gendered characteristics of work or unemployment. For example, my most recent work focuses on artificial intelligence in the U.S. financial sector and its employment implications for financial workers. By the same token, I am also interested in advising students who are motivated by alternative/'diverse economies', or community-led economic development from a critical perspective. In that sense, I consider myself to be what I could call a socio-economic geographer with a special interest in qualitative/ethnographic (or mixed methods) work in the U.S./Canada, Europe, and especially France.

In terms of urban geography, and again, mirroring the idea of socio-economic geography,  I am most interested in advising students who wish to examine the impact of political economy or policies on the lives of urban residents, again from a critical theoretical and empirical perspective. Admittedly, I prefer qualitative (or mixed) methods, and am less interested in students with more applied/planning or purely quantitative or GIS-related methodologies. My research 'expertise' in this area is (as above), the US./Canada, Europe, and especially France, although I am certainly open to students with other geographic foci.

With respect to migration/immigration, I am most interested in studies that would involve qualitative/ethnographic work with low income and/or otherwise disadvantaged immigrants, refugees, or asylum-seekers in especially cities of the global north. However, I would also be delighted to advise students with interests in the geopolitics, geopolitical economy, or politics of migration/immigration. 

Once again, if you are not sure whether I might be interested in your potential research topic, please feel free to contact me about potentially undertaking a graduate degree in the Department. You have nothing to lose.  

Forthcoming publications

(2024) (co-edited with Jens Rydgren) Migration and Nationalism: theoretical and empirical perspectives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, forthcoming, January 2024

Contact Information
859 Patterson Office Tower
(859) 257-6966
BA Geography, Clark University (1988)
MS Geography, University of Wisconsin (1991)
D.Phil, Oxford University (England) (1997)
Research Interests
  • Economic and urban geography; migration and immigration
  • Geography
  • Social Theory
  • International Studies