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School of Geography

Professor Adrian Smith


Honorary Professor of Human Geography



Adrian Smith specialises in the economic geography of the world economy with a focus on employment, global production and trade integration; global value chains and sustainable development; and the relationships between work, ecology, sustainable development and food security.

He recently completed terms as Deputy Vice-Principal (Research Excellence), Deputy Vice-Principal in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Dean for Research.

As Deputy Vice-Principal (Research Excellence), Adrian was the academic lead for Queen Mary’s preparations for, and submission to, the Research Excellence Framework (2021). As Deputy Vice-Principal (Humanities and Social Sciences), he was a member of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences executive team, deputising for the Faculty Vice-Principal, and had responsibility for leading the Faculty’s preparations for and strategy relating to the REF2021 submission across eleven Units of Assessment, as well as other strategic projects.

Prior to taking on these roles, Adrian undertook two three-year terms as Dean for Research  (Humanities and Social Sciences), with responsibility for leading the Faculty’s research strategy, developing inter-disciplinary research across nine academic units, and co-ordinating the Faculty’s Research Excellence Framework preparations and strategy. Before this he was the Senior Academic Lead for Queen Mary’s submission to REF2014, when a top 10 position among the U.K.’s multi-faculty HEIs was achieved. Between 2007 and 2011 he served a four year term as Head of the School of Geography during which time the School was ranked equal first in RAE2008.

He is Editor-in-Chief of European Urban and Regional Studies, was Vice President for Research and Higher Education of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences in 2007, and received the Royal Geographical Society’s Gill Memorial Award in 2003.

Adrian’s main research and teaching interests are in economic geography and sustainable global economic integration; employment, global production networks and international trade policy; and macro-regional integration and the restructuring of global value chains in post-socialist East-Central Europe and North Africa. He was trained in economic geography and development studies, and his interests continue to focus on the relations between uneven development and political economy, but his work continues to be inter-disciplinary and collaborative. He is a founder of the Centre on Labour and Global Production at Queen Mary University of London, in conjunction with colleagues in the School of Business and Management, and has co-ordinated a number of international, multi-disciplinary research projects funded primarily by the Economic and Social Research Council, the US National Science Foundation, and the British Academy. He has supervised a range of PhD research projects in economic geography and in collaboration with business and management schlolars. From January 2022 he has been awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship to work on a project on food security, employment and techno-science in the value chains of glasshouse horticulture.

Key recent publications:

Editorial responsibilities:


My teaching is informed by my research interests and I have been fortunate to teach modules which are close to my core interests. As a consequence, students are provided with up-to-date and informed modules, reflecting some of the critical issues of political-economy and economic geography in the contemporary world. My approach to teaching is to always try to embed an understanding of theoretical and conceptual issues in the context of empirical cases, and as a result, much of my teaching focuses on globalisation and uneven development in the geographical contexts in which I research (West and East Europe, and North Africa).

Most recently I have taught on the following undergraduate modules:

  • GEG4104 Global Worlds 
  • GEG6121 Globalisation and Regional Development (convenor)

Student comments on my teaching include:

  • "Adrian ... is extremely enthusiastic about the topics and it helps to understand everything."
  • "His knowledge and public speaking skills are the best things about the module. The handouts and enthusiasm are extremely helpful and inspiring"


Research Interests:

My current research focuses on the economic geography of the world economy with a focus on employment, global production and trade integration; global value chains and sustainable development; and the relationships between work, ecology, sustainable development and food security. In January 2022 I began a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship entitled Fields of Glass: Labour, Techno-science and Biopolitics, with a focus on food security, work and techno-scientific regulation in glasshouse horticultural value chains. 

Since the early 1990s I worked on a variety of research projects looking at the economic geographies of global economic integration, trade and macro-regional transformation in Central Europe and in North Africa. This work has engaged with debates over political-economic transformation and global value chains. Prior to that I undertook research on the political economy of housing, urban change and gentrification in London and in Lexington, Kentucky.

My recent research involves the following areas:

Fields of Glass: Labour, Techno-Science and Bio-politics

This project, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship examines how the security of food production requires the organisation of work and value chains, cropping and the application of techno-scientific innovation within an always fragile system of socio-natural relations. It does so through elaborating the first detailed, long-run account of the interaction of employment, food production, and technical and scientific change and regulation in glasshouse horticulture value chains, which constitute a prototypical 'total' controlled environment for food production.

Labour Standards and Free Trade Agreements 
This ESRC-funded research examined the effects of the European Union’s approach to trade and sustainable development in ‘third countries’ and the extent to which this approach provides for meaningful improvement in working conditions in the global economy and global value chains. It involved collaboration with colleagues in the Schools of Business and Management (Liam Campling) and of Geography (Mirela Barbu) at QMUL, and at the University of Warwick (James Harrison (Law) and Ben Richardson (Politics and International Studies)). A summary of the impact of the research on trade policy, global value chains and labour provisions is summarised here and also featured by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Europe and North Africa after the ‘Arab Revolts’: Economic Integration and Uneven Development
The 2011 popular revolts in North Africa challenged long-standing authoritarianism and occurred in part due to the unequal outcomes (high unemployment and social/regional inequality) arising from the combination of state-led development strategies and nearly 20 years of economic liberalisation and integration with the European and international economies. This British Academy-funded research investigated the developmental implications of the uneven integration of North African economies into the European Union’s (EU) economic sphere of influence. The research focused on the extent to which enhanced integration into the European and world economies was able to resolve the economic insecurities which have dominated the experience of uneven development in Tunisia. It investigated the forms of integration through global production networks in the clothing and electrical equipment engineering sectors, which are the dominant export-oriented industries in the country.

Economic Geographies of Uneven Development in the ‘New’ Europe
I have been involved in research which examines the uneven integration and development of economic interactions between the ‘new’ Europe (meaning the enlarged European Union) and its neighbours. This research focused on the forms of integration through global production networks of economies in the former Soviet Union and North Africa with the market and trade relations and associated governance frameworks of the European Union. It did so, in part, by looking at production networks involving clothing exports, which built upon my long-standing interest in the East European garment industry and the growth of outward processing, global contracting and new trade regimes.

The research has been funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and involved collaborative work research with colleagues in the USA including John Pickles (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Bob Begg (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Gary Gereffi (Duke University), Meenu Tewari (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), and in Central and Eastern Europe including Milan Buček and Rudolf Pástor (University of Economics, Bratislava) and Poli Roukova (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences). We examined the dramatic growth of the garment industry in Eastern Europe, its restructuring under increasing competitive pressure as a result of trade liberalisation, and attempted to understand these dynamics in relation to both the new geographies of trade liberalisation as well as the social and cultural embeddedness of industrial economies.

This area of research built upon earlier ESRC-funded research examining territorial uneven development and economic transformations across Europe. This project involved research with Mick Dunford (University of Sussex & Chinese Academy of Sciences), Jane Hardy (University of Hertfordshire), Ray Hudson (University of Durham), Al Rainnie (University of South Australia) and David Sadler (University of Birmingham Dubai). The aim of this project was to link an understanding of territorial uneven development with the reconfiguration of economic sectors and divisions of labour in a Europe undergoing rapid integration after the collapse of state socialism.

Cultures of Economies and Household Economic Practices
I have also conducted research on household economic practices and social reproduction in Central European cities. Funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the ESRC, this research examined forms of domestic food production and networks of reciprocity and social cohesion amongst households in cities in Slovakia and Poland and has involved collaborative work with Alison Stenning (Newcastle University). A book arising from this research has recently been published: Domesticating Neo-Liberalism: Spaces of Economic Practice and Social Reproduction in Post-Socialist Cities (Wiley, 2010).

A related area of interest has involved collaborative work on the cultures of commodity economies. Most recently this has resulted in a special issue of Society and Space (2003), edited with Gavin Bridge (Durham University).

Domesticating Neo-Liberalism
The research on household economic practices and social reproduction has also linked to conceptual interests related to understanding neo-liberalism. This has resulted in the publication recently of an edited collection Social Justice and Neo-Liberalism: Global Perspectives (Zed, 2008) and Domesticating Neo-Liberalism: Spaces of Economic Practice and Social Reproduction in Post-Socialist Cities (Wiley, 2010).

Manufacturing London
Earlier research as part of the Global Apparel Research Programme, funded by the British Academy, involved an examination of the globalisation and restructuring of metropolitan manufacturing in London’s garment sector. Investigating the scope and scale of restructuring, the kinds of restructuring strategies established and the role of institutional structures and practices this project built upon my other interests in the global garment industry.




Baglioni, E., Campling, L. Coe, N. and Smith, A. (eds) (2022) Labour Regimes and Global Production, Newcastle: Agenda Publishing.

Smith, A., Harrison, J., Campling, L., Richardson, B. and Barbu, M. (2021) Free Trade Agreements and Global Labour Governance: The European Union's Trade-Labour Linkage in a Value Chain World, London: Routledge.

Pickles, J. and Smith, A. (with Begg, R. Buček, Roukova, P. and Pástor) (2015) Articulations of Capital: Global Production Networks and Regional Transformations, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell (Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) book series).



Stenning, A., Smith, A., Rochovská, A. and Świątek, D. (2010) Domesticating Neo-Liberalism: Spaces of Economic Practice and Social Reproduction in Post-Socialist Cities, Oxford: Wiley, Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) book series.



Smith, A., Stenning, A. and Willis, K. (eds) (2008) Social Justice and Neo-Liberalism: Global Perspectives, London: Zed.




Rainnie, A., Smith, A. and Swain, A. (eds.) (2002) Work, Employment and Transition: Restructuring Livelihoods in ‘post-Communist’ Eastern Europe, London: Routledge.




Smith, A. (1998) Reconstructing the Regional Economy: Industrial Transformation and Regional Development in Slovakia, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.




Pickles, J. and Smith, A. (eds.) (1998) Theorising Transition: The Political Economy of Post-Communist Transformations, London: Routledge.


Blog postings

Selected papers and book chapters

  • Campling, L., Harrison, J., Harrison, B., Smith, A., and Barbu, M. (2019) “South Korea’s automotive labour regime, Hyundai Motors’ Group production network, and trade-based integration with the European Union”, British Journal of Industrial Relations, DOI: 10.1111/bjir.12506.
  • Barbu, M., Campling, L., Smith, A., Harrison, J. and Richardson, B. (2018) “The trade-labour nexus: global value chains and labour provisions in European Union free trade agreements”, Global Labour Journal, 9 (3): 258-280.
  • Harrison, J. et al (2018) Labour standards provisions in EU free trade agreements: reflections on the European Commission’s reform agenda, World Trade Review, doi:10.1017/S1474745618000204.
  • Smith, A., Barbu, M., Campling, L., Harrison, J. and Richardson, B. (2018) “Labor regimes, global production networks, and European Union trade policy: international labor standards and export production in the Moldovan clothing industry”, Economic Geography, DOI: 10.1080/00130095.2018.1434410.
  • Harrison, J., Barbu, M., Campling, L., Richardson, B and Smith, A. (2018) “Governing labour standards through free trade agreements: limits of the European Union’s trade and sustainable development chapters”, Journal of Common Market Studies.
  • Smith, A., Barbu, M., Harrison, J., Richardson, B. and Campling, L. (2017) ‘Labour provisions in the European Union-Republic of Moldova Association Agreement’, in International Labour Organization, Handbook on Assessment of Labour Provisions in Trade and Investment Agreements, ILO: Geneva, pp. 87-97.
  • Campling, L., Harrison, J., Richardson, B. and Smith, A. (2016) “Can labour provisions work beyond the border? Evaluating the effects of EU trade agreements”, International Labour Review, 155 (3): 357-382. DOI: 10.1111/j.1564-913X.2015.00037.x
  • Harrison, J., Barbu, M., Campling, L., Richardson, B. and Smith, A. (2016) “Labour standards in EU free trade agreements: working towards what end?” GREAT Insights, 5 (6): 32-34.
  • Smith, A. (2015) ‘Macro-regional integration, the frontiers of capital and the externalisation of economic governance’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 507-522. DOI: 10.1111/tran.12091
  • Smith, A. (2015) ‘Economic (in)security and global value chains: the dynamics of industrial and trade integration in the Euro-Mediterranean macro-region’, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 8: 439-458. DOI: 10.1093/cjres/rsv010.
  • Smith, A. (2015) ‘The state, institutional frameworks and the dynamics of capital in global production networks’, Progress in Human Geography, 39 (3): 290-315. DOI: 10.1177/0309132513518292.
  • Smith, A., Pickles, J., Buček, M., Pástor, R. and Begg, R. (2014) ‘The political economy of global production networks: regional industrial change in the East European clothing industry’, Journal of Economic Geography, 14: 1023-1051. DOI:10.1093/jeg/lbt039
  • Smith, A. (2013) ‘Europe and an inter-dependent world: uneven geo-economic and geo-political developments’, European Urban and Regional Studies, 20 (1): 3-13.
  • Smith, A. (2013) ‘Polanyi, double movements, and political-economic transformations’, Environment and Planning A, 45: 1656-1661.
  • Smith, A. (2012) ‘The insurmountable diversity of economies’, in Barnes, T., Peck, J., and Sheppard, E. (eds) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, Oxford: Wiley, pp.258-274.
  • Smith, A. and Pickles, J. (2011) ‘De-localization and Persistence in the European Clothing Industry: the Reconfiguration of Trade and Production Networks’, Regional Studies, 45 (2): 167-185. doi: 10.1080/00343401003601933.
  • Smith, A. and Timár, J. (2010) ‘Uneven transformations: space, economy and society 20 years after the collapse of state socialism’, European Urban and Regional Studies, 17 (2), 115-125.
  • Smith, A., Stenning, A., Rochovksá, A. and Świątek, D. (2010) ‘Credit, debt, and everyday financial practices: low income households in two post-socialist cities’, Economic Geography, 86 (2): 119-145. [reprinted in virtual special issue in February 2011 on the theme of ‘financialization’].
  • Smith, A. and Swain, A. (2010) ‘The global economic crisis, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union: models of development and the contradictions of internationalization’, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 51 (1): 1-34.
  • Pickles, J. and Smith, A. (2010) ‘Clothing workers after worker states: the consequences for work and labour of outsourcing, nearshoring and delocalization in postsocialist Europe’, in McGrath-Champ, S., Herod, A. and Rainnie, A. (eds) Handbook of Employment and Society, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham, pp. 106-123.
  • Smith A. (2009) ‘Spatial division of labor’, in Kitchin, R., and Thrift, N. (eds) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Volume 10, pp. 348-354. Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Smith, A., Pickles, J., Buček, M., Begg, B. and Roukova, P. (2008) ‘Reconfiguring “post-socialist” regions: trans-border networks and regional competition in the Slovak and Ukrainian clothing industry’, Global Networks, 8 (3): 281-307.
  • Lee, R., Leyshon, A. and Smith, A. (2008) ‘Rethinking economies/economic geographies’, Geoforum, 39: 1111-1115.
  • Smith, A., Stenning, A., Rochovská, A. and Świątek, D. (2008) ‘The emergence of a working poor: labour markets, neoliberalisation and diverse economies in post-socialist cities’, Antipode, 40 (2): 283-311.
  • Stenning, A., Świątek, D., Smith, A. and Rochovská, A. (2007) ‘Poverty and household economic practices in Nowa Huta, Poland’, Geographia Polonica, 80 (1): 7-24.
  • Smith, A. and Rochovská, A. (2007) ‘Domesticating neo-liberalism: everyday lives and the geographies of post-socialist transformations’, Geoforum, 38 (6): 1163-1178.
  • Smith, A. (2007) ‘Articulating neo-liberalism: diverse economies and urban restructuring in post-socialism’, in Sheppard, E., Leitner, H. and Peck, J. (eds.) Contesting Neoliberalism: The Urban Frontier, Guilford, pp. 204-222.
  • Pickles, J. and Smith, A. (2007) ‘Post-socialism and the politics of knowledge production’, in Tickell, A., Sheppard, E., Peck, J., and (eds.) Politics and Practice in Economic Geography, Sage, pp. 151-162.
  • Smith, A. and Stenning, A. (2006) ‘Beyond household economies: articulations and spaces of economic practice in post-socialism’, Progress in Human Geography, 30 (2): 190-213.
  • Smith, A. and Evans, Y. (2006) ‘Surviving at the margins? Deindustrialisation, the creative industries, and upgrading in London's garment sector’, Environment and Planning A, 38: 2253-2269.    
  • Pickles, J., Smith, A., Buček, M., Begg, R. and Roukova, P. (2006) ‘Upgrading, changing competitive pressures and diverse practices in the East and Central European apparel industry’, Environment and Planning A, 38: 2305-2324.
  • Smith, A. and Rochovská, A. (2006) ‘Neo-liberalism and post-socialist urban transformations: poverty, inequality and the city’, Acta Geographica Universitatis Comenianae, 48: 43-54.
  • Smith, A., Pickles, J., Begg, R., Roukova, P. and Buček, M. (2005) ‘Outward processing, EU enlargement and regional relocation in the European textiles and clothing industry: reflections on the European Commission’s Communication on “The Future of the Textiles and Clothing Sector in the Enlarged European Union”, European Urban and Regional Studies, 12: 83-91.
  • Begg, R., Roukova, P. Pickles, J. and Smith, A. (2005) ‘Industrial districts and commodity chains: the garage firms of Emilia-Romagna (Italy) and Haskovo (Bulgaria)’, Problems of Geography (Bulgaria), 1-2: 153-165.
  • Smith, A. (2004) ‘Regions, territories and diverse economies in the “new Europe”’, European Urban and Regional Studies, 11: 9–25.       
  • Smith, A., Pickles, J. and Begg, R. (2004) ‘Cutting it: European integration, trade regimes and the reconfiguration of East-Central European apparel production’, Environment and Planning A, 35: 2191–2207..
  • Smith, A. (2004) ‘Capitalism from below? Small firms, petty capitalists and regional transformations in Eastern Europe’, in Petty Capitalists: Flexibility, Place and the Global Economy, Smart, A. and Smart, J. (eds.), Albany: SUNY Press, pp. 83–98.
  • Smith, A. and Bridge, G. (2003) ‘Intimate encounters: culture-economy-commodity’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 21 (3): 257-268. Available at
  • Smith, A. (2003) ‘Power relations, industrial clusters and regional transformations: pan-European integration and outward processing in the Slovak clothing industry’, Economic Geography, 79: 17−40.
  • Smith, A. (2002) ‘Culture/economy and spaces of economic practice: positioning households in post-communism’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 27: 232–50.
  • Smith, A., Rainnie, A., Dunford, M., Hardy, J., Hudson, R. and Sadler, D. (2002) ‘Networks of value, commodities and regions: reworking divisions of labour in macro-regional economies’, Progress in Human Geography, 26: 41–63.          
  • Smith, A. (2002) ‘Imagining geographies of the “new Europe”: geo-economic power and the new European architecture of integration’, Political Geography, 21: 647–70.          
  • Dunford, M. and Smith, A. (2000) ‘Catching up or falling behind? Economic performance and regional trajectories in the “new” Europe’, Economic Geography, 76: 169–95.
  • Smith, A. (2000) ‘Employment restructuring and household survival in “post-communist transition”: rethinking economic practices in Eastern Europe’, Environment and Planning A, 32: 1759–80.




I am interested in supervising PhD research relating to my areas of interest in political-economy, economic geography, labour regimes, uneven development and global production networks. I have also mentored a range of post-doctoral researchers, many of whom have secured academic positions in leading business and management departments and economic geography positions.

I am currently working with the following research students:

  • Dara Leyden (joint with the School of Business and Management) (ESRC LISS DTP-funded)
  • Rosie Rawle (joint with Electronics Watch) (ESRC LISS DTP-funded)

Recent past research students include:

  • Andy Cook: “The Gilt on the Golden City: Expatriates, Social Exclusion and the Production of Space in Post-Socialist Prague” (now Lecturer, University of Nottingham)
  • Tim Heinemann: “Constructing Turkey: Emergent Economic Geographies of an Emerging Market” (now an Economist at KfW Banking Group, Germany)
  • Aidan Wong: “Waste, ‘Value’ and Informal Labour: The Regional E-Waste Recycling Production Network in Malaysia and Singapore” (now Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University)
  • Steffen Fischer: “Labour Regimes, Embeddedness and Commodity Chains: Liberia’s Iron Ore and Rubber Industries”
  • Jonny Jones: Port Competition and Dockworker Organising Across Scales and Networks in South-East England, 2000-2020 (now at the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London)
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