I joined Keele in January 2008. Previously I held appointments as Postdoctoral Fellow and then Research Fellow in the School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. My first degree, BA (1st Hons) Biology, was granted by Dalhousie University (Canada) in 1989. I obtained a Master's in Environmental Studies (1993), also from Dalhousie, and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of British Columbia (1999). My graduate studies involved work with Canada's international development agencies - CIDA and the International Development Research Centre - as both field researcher and intern. My position in Australia involved a research collaboration with the Australian Agency for International Development.

Research and scholarship

Festival scene My research draws on both social/cultural geography and social anthropology to explore people's place-based experiences of globalisation and development.

I do fieldwork in the global South and also with migrant communities from developing areas who have moved into the world's global cities. Much of my work has been conducted with people who originate in indigenous villages in the northern Philippines.

Empirically, I am interested in the long-distance relations that connect outmigrants to their sending communities, changes in local livelihoods and the possibilities for locally sustainable, alternative economic development, and environmental degradation linked to migration as well as the kinds of social networks and relationships they build through migration.

To explore these empirical themes, I engage theories of personhood, subjectivity, and cultural economic approaches to understanding economic development.

Current projects

Past Projects

  • 2011 - 2014 Indiana University Press/Mellon Foundation (€11,287)
    Fellow, Framing the Global Publication Project for monograph, Archipelago of Care
  • 2012 - 2013 ASEASUK/British Academy (€2,979)
    The Traffic in Things: How Indigenous Filipinos Appropriate Material Remittances
  • 2011- 2013 with Dawson, Lau, and Knight, Higher Education Academy UK (€26,581)
    Reading the World: Innovative Strategies for Building Textual Skills in the Curriculum
  • 2011- 2013 with Perez, P., as RA British Academy (€8,866)
    Everyday Objects: the Making and Un-making of Filipino Crafts as Art
  • 2007 - 2010 Werbner, P. and Johnson, M. with D. McKay as named Senior Research Fellow
    Diasporas, Migration, and Identities Programme, AHRC, UK (€821,087)
    In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Prophet: Sociality, Caring, and the Religious Imagination in the Filipino Diaspora
  • 2003 - 2008 Gibson, K., McKay, D., McWilliam, A. and Robinson, K.
    Australian Research Council with AusAID (€610,123)
    Negotiating Alternative Strategies for Regional Development, Indonesia and the Philippines

Current Postgraduate Supervision

2017 - Lei Xiaoyu, PhD, Human Geography - Creative arts and plastic waste
2015 - Zahid Mughal, PhD Human Geography - Cosmopolitanism in Hong Kong

Past Advisees

Kenneth Masowo, PhD Social Policy (2012 – 2018)
Dynamics of community participation in develpment: Evidence from practice in Botswana

Stephanie Moore, MPhil Human Geography (2013 - 2018)
Why differentiate day visitors? Lessons for managing tourism in the Peak District National Park

Dr Denry Machin, PhD Social Policy (2013 - 2016)
The hybrid professional in international educational leadership.

Dr. Juliette Hallaire, PhD Human Geography (2010 – 2014)
Constructing Maritime Geographies: The Pragmatic Mobility of Senegalese Fishermen

Dr. Michael Fabinyi, ANU Anthropology (2004 – 2009)
Fishing for Fairness: Poverty, Morality and Resources in the Calamianes Islands, Philippines.

Dr. Hannah Bulloch, ANU Anthropology (2004 - 2009)
In Pursuit of ‘Progress’: the cultural-politics of development on Siquijor Island, Philippines

Dr. Michelle Carnegie, ANU Geography (2003 - 2008)
Place-based livelihoods and post-development challenges in eastern Indonesia

Dr. Jessica Weir, ANU, Resource and Environmental Studies (2004 -2008)
Cultural flows: an ecological dialogue with traditional owners from along the Murray River

Dr. Martina Jaskolski, ANU Geography (2003 - 2008)
Envisioning Balinese futures: engaging local and global discourses of 'sustainability' in secondary education.

Dr. Katharine McKinnon, ANU Geography (2000 - 2004)
Locating Post-development Subjects: Discourses of Intervention and identification in the Highlands of Northern Thailand

Dr. Catharina Williams, ANU Geography (2000 - 2003)
Maiden Voyages: Eastern Indonesian Women on the Move


Year 1

  • GEG - 10013 Human Geographies
  • ESC - 10041 People and the Environment and ESC-10066 Climate Change - the Scientific and Social Context

Year 2

  • GEG - 20009 Research Training (module lead)
  • GEG - 20009 Singapore Fieldtrip
  • GEG - 20049/50 Representing the World
  • GEG - 20010 Practical Human Geography

Year 3

  • GEG-30016 Economic Development and Environmental Transformation (module lead)


  • GEG - 40006 Economic Development and Environmental Transformation


Ambient Surveillance

Ambient Surveillance: How Care-for-control emerges across diasporic social media

The Conversation

Deirdre's May 27th item (Debt bondage, domestic servitude and indentured labour still a problem in the world’s richest nations) can be viewed here

The virtual meets reality

The virtual meets reality: Policy implications of e-diasporas

An Archipelago of CareArchipelago of Care cover

Archipelago of Care info pdf (with discount code from Combined Academic Publishers)

"Deirdre McKay takes a novel approach to key concepts undergirding globalization and transnationalism today – citizenship, surveillance, and security. She makes us think differently about the negotiation of belonging in a digital and hyper-securitized age."
(Jennifer Burrell, author of Maya After War: Conflict, Power and Politics in Guatemala)

"… a powerful critique of the limits of state-based articulations of belonging, responsibility and entitlement."
(Meghann Oromond in Ageing and Society)

"a distinctive perspective on global processes, and a valuable addition to the growing literature incorporating emotion into understandings…. of migration."
(Katherine Charsley in The Feminist Review)

 An "impact" video from the book

Global Filipinos; Migrants' Lives in the Virtual Village

Global Filipinos cover

Order here

"A unique and important study that adds a refreshing and necessary reminder that, on the most fundamental level, a village is part of the global world."

(Nicole Constable, author of Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers)

"A luminous, elegant, and well-argued multi-sited ethnographic study."

(Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora)

"The problems of overseas Filipino workers with loneliness; long absences from spouses, children, and other relatives; abuse by employers and governments; and efforts to use their time and talent to further individual opportunities are understood easily in McKay's monograph. The photos of her Filipino informants... add a human touch to the topic of overseas workers.... Recommended." —Choice



School of Geography, Geology and the Environment
William Smith Building
Keele University