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Dr. John Holmes
B.Sc., M.A. (University of Sheffield), Ph.D. (Ohio State University, 1974)
Office: Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room E302
Phone: +001 (613) 533-6043
Fax: +001 (613) 533-6122
Email: holmesj@queensu.ca



Teaching Interests





I was born and grew up on the edge of the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, England (www.peakdistrict.org) and received my geographical education at the University of Sheffield (B.Sc. (Hons.) - 1966, M.A. (Social Science) - 1968) and at The Ohio State University (Ph.D. - 1974). I came to Queen's University in 1971 as a one-year replacement for someone on sabbatical leave and never left! From 1993-2004, I served as Head of Department.

At Queen's, I am also affiliated with the graduate Industrial Relations program in the School of Policy Studies. During sabbatical leaves I have held visiting appointments at the University of Sussex (1977-78), University of Wales, Swansea and UWIST (1985-86) and the University of Manchester (1999). In Winter Term 2007, I was the Invited Visiting Professor in the Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University.

I am very active in the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) – the union representing academic staff at Queen’s - and served as QUFA President 2005-07.  Currently, I serve as a Trustee of the Kingston and District Labour Council.

Teaching Interests

Over my years at Queen's I have taught several different courses in economic and urban geography as well as methodology. I have always enjoyed teaching and I am a past recipient of both the W. Barnes and the Frank Knox Awards for Teaching Excellence at Queen's. For the past dozen or more  years my administrative responsibilities in the department and the university have meant that I have not done as much teaching as I would like. Most recently, I have taught two undergraduate courses, GPHY 228 (Geographies of the Global Political Economy) and GPHY 332 (Cities, Regions and Planning in Capitalist Societies) and a graduate course, GPHY 881 (Industrial Restructuring and Locational Change).

Graduate and post-doctoral research that I have supervised includes: community unionism as a geographically-based model for union organizing; the restructuring of the automobile components industry in Ontario; labour struggles over the closure of the Cape Breton coal industry; the role of the Canadian Autoworkers Union in attracting new auto industry investment; work cultures in the Northern Ontario tree planting industry; the restructuring of workplace governance in the forest products industry in Cascadia; precarious work in the restaurant industry; and the growth in self-employment in Canada.


My primary research interest focuses on geographical aspects of the political economy of contemporary economic and social change. I am especially interested in the geographical consequences of the contemporary restructuring and reorganization of production and work. My empirical research has focused primarily on the automobile industry.

Auto Industry Research: In collaboration with a Queen’s colleague (Pradeep Kumar, Industrial Relations), I have had a long-standing program of research on the implications of globalization, technological change and work reorganization for automobile industry workers and their unions. One focus of our research has been to explain the local diversity and unevenness that exist in the way that labour-management relations and shop-floor work practices are "remade" at the plant-level in response to industry-wide processes of restructuring and the introduction of new production methods.

More recently, my automotive industry research also has been undertaken in collaboration with Tod Rutherford (Syracuse University).  Holmes, Rutherford and Kumar completed a three-year study of the automotive parts cluster in southern Ontario as part of a major SSHRC-funded collaborative research project titled "Innovation Systems and Economic Development: The Role of Local and Regional Clusters in Canada" and led by Meric Gertler and David Wolfe (University of Toronto).

I am a member of a research team lead out of McMaster University by Dr. Charlotte Yates that recently (2012) received a large grant from Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) for a five-year project titled Manufacturing policy and the Canadian automotive sector: analysis and options for growth,  sustainability and global reach.”

I also belong to the Paris-based Groupe d'Étude et de recherche Permanent sur l'Industrie et les Salariés de l'Automobile (GERPISA) (www.gerpisa.org) an international network for research on the automobile industry.

Work, Employment and Labour Relations Research: I am a member of the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la mondialisation et le travail (CRIMT) (www.crimt.ca) based out of Université Laval, Université de MontrĂ©al and HEC Montréal and a co-applicant on the large collaborative CRIMT research project  Rethinking Institutions for Work and Employment in a Global Era (Lead PI: Gregor Murray, Université de Montréal) which received renewed multiyear funding under the SSHRC MCRI program in January 2008. Under this research program Tod Rutherford (Syracuse University) and I are developing research on workplace governance in Canada-United States cross-border regions.

Climate Change and Work:  A relatively new line of research for me is into the impacts of climate change for the future of employment and work in Canada. This research is being undertaken under a SSHRC CURA funded project titled Work in a Warming World led by Dr. Carla Lipsig-Mummé (York University) which focuses  not only on the loss of traditional jobs and growth in new “green jobs” but also on how existing labour processes might be “greened” and the role unions might play in this process (www.workinawarmingworld.yorku.ca/).

Graduate Student Research Opportunities

I welcome enquiries from interested students in any of the three research areas listed above.

The CRIMT program offers very generous graduate student funding opportunities in the form of both fellowships and fieldwork support.  I am especially interested in attracting new graduate students to work on topics related to this project.

Similarly, the recently funded APC project (2012-2017)  will provide financial support for graduate students wishing to work on topics related to the development of policy for the Canadian automotive industry.


Selected Publications

Holmes, J. (with Austin Hracs) 2013. “The Transportation Equipment Industry: Climate and Work” Chapter in Climate@Work: Rethinking work in the warming world Toronto: Fernwood Press   (in press)

Holmes, J. 2013. “The Forestry Industry” Chapter in Climate@Work: Rethinking work in the warming world Toronto: Fernwood Press  (in press)

Sweeney, B.A. and J. Holmes 2012. “Problematizing Labour's Agency:  Rescaling Collective Bargaining in British Columbia Pulp and Paper Mills”  Antipode, (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2012.00988.x)

Rutherford, T. and Holmes, J. 2012. “(Small) Differences That (Still) Matter? Cross Border Regions and Work Place Governance in the Southern Ontario and U.S. Mid-West Automotive Industry” Regional Studies, ( DOI:10.1080/00343404.2011.653334)

Tufts, S. and J. Holmes. 2009. “Student Workers and the ‘New Economy’ in Mid-sized Cities: The Cases of Peterborough and Kingston, Ontario” in Noreen Pupo and Mark Thomas (eds.) Interrogating the New Economy: Restructuring Work in the 21st. Century. Toronto: Broadview Press (UTP Educational) pp.129-148

 Rutherford, T. and Holmes, J. 2008. “Engineering Networks: University-Industry Networks in Southern Ontario Automotive Industry Clusters” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 1, 247-264

Sweeney B.A. and Holmes, J. 2008. “Work and Life in the Clearcut: Communities of Practice in the Northern Ontario Tree Planting Industry” The Canadian Geographer, 52(2), 206-221

Rutherford, T. and Holmes, J. 2008. ““The flea on the tail of the dog”: Power in Global Production Networks and the Restructuring of Canadian Automotive Clusters”, Journal of Economic Geography 8(4), 519-544.

Rutherford, T. and Holmes, J. 2007. “We simply have to do that stuff for our survival”: Labour, Firm Innovation and Cluster Governance in the Canadian Automotive Parts Industry, Antipode, 39(1), 194-221.

Rutherford, T. and Holmes, J. 2007. “Entrepreneurship, Knowledge, and Learning in the Formation and Evolution of Industrial Clusters: The Case of the Windsor, Ontario Tool, Die, and Mould Cluster”, International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, 7, 208-232.

Holmes, J, T. Rutherford, and S. Fitzgibbon 2005. ‘Innovation in the Automotive Tool, Die and Mould Industry: A Case Study of the Windsor-Essex Region’, in D. Wolfe and M. Lucas eds. Global Networks and Local Linkages: The Paradox of Cluster Development in an Open Economy. Kingston: Queen’s School of Policy Studies Innovation Systems Research Series. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press. pp. 119-154.

Holmes, J. 2004. “The Auto Pact from 1965 to the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA),” in Maureen Irish ed. The Auto Pact: Investment, Labour and the WTO,. The Hague : Kluwer Law International, pp. 3-21.

Holmes, J. 2004. “Re-scaling Collective Bargaining: Union Responses to Restructuring in the North American Auto Industry”, Geoforum, 35(1): 9-21

Holmes, J. 2000. "Regional Economic Integration in North America" in Gordon L. Clark, M.P. Feldman, and M.S. Gertler, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 649-667.

Preston, V, D. Rose, G. Norcliffe and J. Holmes. 2000. "Shiftwork, Childcare, and Domestic Work: Divisions of Labour in Canadian Paper Mill Communities." Gender, Place and Culture, 7 (1), 5-29. (reprinted as Chapter 14 in M.S. Kimmel and A. Aronson and A. Kaler (eds) (2007) The Gendered Society Reader (Canadian Edition). Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Kumar, P. and J. Holmes. 1998. "The Impact of NAFTA on the Auto Industry in Canada," in Sidney Weintraub and Christopher Sands eds. The North American Auto Industry Under NAFTA. Washington D.C.: CSIS Press. 92-183.