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School of Geography

Dr William Monteith


Director of Research, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8438
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 105
Twitter: @WillMonteith


I am an interdisciplinary social scientist interested in questions of work and energy. My research explores people’s experiences of work, entrepreneurship and informality at the margins of capitalist economies; the relationships and places produced by these experiences, and the possibilities they provide for enacting more just and inclusive economies. I am particularly interested in the ways in which the activities and aspirations of workers in the majority world challenge taken-for-granted ideas about the futures of work and energy.  

My current research focuses on the following topics:

  • Retheorising work. The standard employment relationship is in decline in many regions of the world (if it ever existed in the first place). Yet the idea of formal waged employment continues to dominate our politics and imaginations of work. My co-edited book seeks to develop new theorisations of work based on the experiences and aspirations of workers subsisting outside of wage employment; from Cambodian brick kilns to Catalonian cooperatives
  • Rethinking informality. Over two billion people work in the informal economy. Understanding informality as the global norm rather than the exception, my research explores the role of the informal economy in fostering diverse forms of production, reproduction and social provisioning through long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Kampala, Uganda.   
  • Reconnecting work, energy and coloniality. Energy is often defined as ‘the capacity to do work’. Yet the implications of ongoing energy transitions for human labour remains unclear. I am currently researching the relationship between work, energy and coloniality in the green hydrogen sector in Namibia together with colleagues in the Centre on Labour, Sustainability and Global Production.

Key publications

  • Monteith, W., Vicol, D. and Williams, P. (2021) Beyond the Wage: Ordinary Work in Diverse EconomiesBristol: Bristol University Press 
  • Monteith, W. (2024) ‘Re-thinking Work from the Cities of the South’ in Desai, Potter & Dauncey (Eds.) Companion to Development Studies (4th Ed.), London: Routledge
  • Monteith, W. & Camfield, L. (2019) “Business as Family, Family as Business: Female Entrepreneurship in Kampala, Uganda,” Geoforum 101: 111-121
  • Monteith, W. & Giesbert, L. (2017) “When the Stomach is Full, We Look for Respect: Perceptions of ‘Good Work’ in the Urban Informal Sectors of Three Developing Countries.” Work, Employment and Society31(5): 816-833



I am an enthusiastic student and teacher of geography and hope to communicate research in ways that engage students. I currently teach on the following modules:


  • GEG4112 Global Worlds (contributor)
  • GEG6151 Urban African Economies (convenor)
  • GEG6000 Independent Geographical Study (contributor)


  • GEG7132 Re-theorizing Global Development (contributor)
  • GEG7131 Global Working Lives (convenor)

QMUL Teaching Awards 

  • Innovative Teaching Award (finalist)
  • Technology Enhanced Learning Award (winner)


Research Interests:

I am currently working on three projects:

Critical cartographies of the 'green hydrogen rush' in Africa

The global shift away from fossil fuels has facilitated a ‘green hydrogen rush’ on the African continent as European states seek to decarbonise their economies and reduce their reliance on Russian gas. This shift has been accompanied by the proliferation of policy reports, feasibility studies and maps which seek to categorise African regions according to their hydrogen potential, laying the ground for new investments and inequalities. This project provides a critical examination of the social and spatial implications of these investments, while opening up space for counter-mapping initiatives with workers and communities in affected regions of Namibia. 

Rethinking work and distribution for precarious migrant workers after Covid 19

This project, conducted in collaboration with the Work Rights Centre in London, generates urgent evidence on the on the double-impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit on precariously employed EU migrants in London, with a focus on barriers to state support, and viable mitigation tactics. Critically, it also seeks to create a dialogue on the future of work with migrant workers and to assess support for more radical interventions including universal basic income. 

The Only Way is Up? How first-generation graduates contest dominant narratives of social mobility

A collaboration with Dr Louise Ashley, this project proposes an original empirical study of the values informing the work lives of QMUL graduates who do not end up in 'graduate jobs'. We explore how graduates in diverse, non-graduate jobs experience and negotiate narratives of social mobility, how they attach meaning to their work, and the extent to which their own definitions of ‘success’ coincide with those found within official discourses. This approach will produce empirically-grounded critiques of the social mobility agenda as it is currently operationalized in higher education and point towards a more progressive approach that takes into account the diverse - and occasionally resistant - aspirations of first-generation graduates. 



Edited books


  • Luthra, A. & Monteith, W. (2023) Of Market Vendors and Waste Collectors: Labour, Informality and Aesthetics in the Era of World-Class City Making, Antipode 55(4): 1068-1088
  • Monteith, W. & Camfield, L. (2021) "'Don't You Want us to Eat?' The Moral Economy of a Ugandan Marketplace", Critical African Studies (Early View) 
  • Monteith, W. & Mirembe, G. (2021) "'We Are Taught to Act': Hustling on the Move in Kampala and Nairobi' Africa 95(1): 95-112
  • Monteith, W. & Camfield, L. (2019) “Business as Family, Family as Business: Female Entrepreneurship in Kampala, Uganda,” Geoforum 101: 111-121
  • Monteith, W. (2018) “Showing ‘Heart’ While Making Money: Negotiating Proximity in a Ugandan Marketplace.” Africa 88(1): 12-30
  • Monteith, W. & Giesbert, L. (2017) “When the Stomach is Full, We Look for Respect: Perceptions of ‘Good Work’ in the Urban Informal Sectors of Three Developing Countries.” Work, Employment and Society31(5): 816-833
  • Monteith, W. & Lwasa, S. (2017) “The Participation of Urban Displaced Populations in (In)formal Markets: Contrasting Experiences in Kampala, Uganda.” Environment and Urbanization29(2): 383-402
  • Monteith, W. (2017) “Markets and Monarchs: Indigenous Urbanism in Postcolonial Kampala.” Settler Colonial Studies 9(2): 247-265
  • Monteith, W. (2017) “Showing ‘Heart’ through Ethnography: Ethical Entanglements in a Ugandan Marketplace.” City 21(2): 178-189.
  • Monteith, W. (2016) A 'Market for the People?' Changing Structures of Governance and Participation in a Ugandan Marketplace. Development 58(1): 58-64

Book chapters

Book reviews

  • Monteith, W. (2021) Review of African Markets and the Utu-Ubuntu Business Model, by M N Kinyanjui, Africa 95(1): 123-125 
  • Monteith, W. (2018) Review of New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times, by AM Simone and E Pieterse, Urban Studies 55(11): 2561-2564



Prospective PhD students

I am excited to hear from students interested in conducting PhD projects on the topics of work, informality and/or energy in the majority world. Please get in touch via email. 

Current PhD students

I currently supervise the following PhD projects:

  • Salome Kimani, 'Everyday Experiences of Digital Finance Among Market Traders in Nairobi' 
  • Natasha Sharma, 'The Work-lives of Manual Scavengers in Postcolonial Kolkata' 
  • Louisa Brain, 'Im/mobility and Environmental Change in the Horn of Africa' 
  • Suyash Barve, 'In Medias Res: Following Cable Networks in Mumbai' 
  • Deivi Norberg, 'Uncertainty Under the Arches: The Crisis of Affordable Workspace in London' (in collaboration with the East End Trades Guild)
  • Jack Hanlon, 'Meat, Masculinity and the Marketplace: Smithfield in the late 20th Century' (in collaboration with the Museum of London) 

Public Engagement

I am actively engaged in academic and non-academic networks related to my research, including the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Work Rights Centre (WoRC) and the Urban Action Lab in Uganda.

In 2015, I was awarded a grant from the British Institute in East Africa to present the findings of my doctoral research to participants and policy makers in Kampala through a series of participatory workshops, for which I received the Public Engagement Prize from the Social Science Faculty at UEA.

In 2017, I was awarded funding from the Goethe Institute to curate an exhibition on African mobilities with Doreen Adengo (Adengo Architecture). The exhibition, entitled ‘Kampala: City of Refuge’, combines geographical and architectural representations of migration in the city, was exhibited in at the Architecture Museum in Munich in 2018. You can read more about it here

In 2023, I co-curated an exhibition on the relationship between labour and ecology entitled 'Wild(er) Walthamstow' at the Winns Gallery in London.

I have published articles for non-academic audiences in African Arguments, The Daily Monitor and the Futures of Work magazine. 

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