He was born in Liverpool, UK and attended Quarry Bank Comprehensive School until 1976. He left school at 16 and did office jobs and travelled. He graduated in geography, philosophy and sociology from Liverpool Polytechnic in the mid-1980s. Merrifield received his PhD in geography from Oxford University in 1993, supervised by David Harvey.
Merrifield spent most of his early career teaching geography at the University of Southampton and King's College London, before moving to Clark University, USA, where he taught from 2000 to 2003. He subsequently lived in France with his partner, initially in Haute-Loire and then in Lavoûte-Chilhac, south of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne, as an independent scholar.
He returned to the academic system in 2011. In 2011–12 he was a Leverhulme Fellow at the University of Manchester. As of 2015, he was Supernumerary Fellow in Human Geography at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge.
Merrifield is a prolific writer, and was a leading proponent of the idea of 'The Right to the City', a phrase associated with Henri Lefebvre. In later work he supports the 'politics of the encounter' in a globalised world, rather than the more restrictive 'right' to urban space. He draws heavily on the work of Lefebvre and his theories.
A departure was signalled by his 2008 book, The Wisdom of Donkeys, completed after his departure from academia in the US. It offers insights into a slowing of life and having time for reflection, while undertaking a journey on foot with a donkey through France's Auvergne region. The book has proven popular worldwide: for example, copies are on display at the gift shop at the Grand Canyon Village in Arizona. Subsequent books reflecting on life and people are listed below.
Awards and honors
- The Urbanization of Injustice (ed. with Erik Swyngedouw, NYU Press, 1997)
- Dialectical Urbanism (2002)
- Metromarxism: A Marxist Tale of the City (2002) (Turkish, Phoenix Yayinevi, 2012)
- Guy Debord (Reaktion Books, 2005) (Chinese, University of Beijing Press, 2011)
- Henri Lefebvre: A Critical Introduction (Routledge, 2006)
- The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World (Bloomsbury, 2008) (Die Weisheit der Esel Ruhe finden in einer chaotischen Welt. München Nymphenburger 2009; L'âne de Schubert. Actes Sud, 2008)
- Magical Marxism: Subversive Politics and the Imagination (Pluto Press, 2011)
- John Berger (Reaktion Books, 2012)
- The Politics of the Encounter: Urban Theory and Protest under Planetary Urbanization. (University of Georgia Press, 2013)
- The New Urban Question (Pluto Press, 2014)
- The Amateur: The Pleasures of Doing What You Love (Verso, 2017)
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Cities (and Love) (OR Books, 2018)
- Thwaite, Mark (25 November 2005). "Andrew Merrifield (interview)". readysteadybook.com. Ready Steady Book... for literature.
- "Staff profile: Andrew Merrifield". staffprofiles.humanities.manchester.ac.uk. University of Manchester.
- "Profile page: ANDY MERRIFIELD, D.Phil. (Oxon)". murrayedwards.cam.ac.uk. Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015.
- Staff writer (17 January 2013). "Author meets critics". International Journal of Urban and Regional Research via Wiley-Blackwell. Pdf.
- Andy Merrifield (2012). Discussion: Wither Urban Studies. University of Manchester via YouTube.
- Merrifield, Andy (November–December 2000). "Chronicle of a city foretold". New Left Review. New Left Review. II (6).
- Review of the book Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US Big City by Mike Davis.
- Staff writer. "Author bios: Andy Merrifield". thenation.com. The Nation. Archived from the original on 24 April 2010.
- Lewis, Roger (21 June 2008). "The Wisdom of Donkeys". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- Alison Flood (6 March 2012). "New prize for radical writing announces shortlist". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 2, 2012.