School of Geography

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Thom Davies

Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences



I am an environmental and political geographer interested in toxic geographies, border violence, and environmental justice. I joined the University of Nottingham in September 2018 from the University of Warwick, where I worked on an ERC funded project called 'Toxic Expertise'. I have previously taught Human Geography at the University of Birmingham.

My research examines social injustice at a range of scales and contexts, with a particular interest in toxic landscapes and border violence. My work has been published in academic journals including Antipode, Political Geography, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Geography Compass, Geoforum, Professional Geographer, and the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, and I have written about my research in media outlets, including the Guardian and the Independent.

I am interested in the politics of informal and irregular migration into Europe and I am currently working on an Antipode Foundation 'Scholar-Activist' project looking at border violence against refugees trapped in the Balkans: "Fragile resistance on the EU border: the peaceful geographies of the refugee crisis". I am also working on an ESRC funded project researching UK government responses to small boat Channel Crossings. I recently completed a UKRI funded 'Rapid Response' project looking at the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK waste sector. In addition, I continue to write about the slow violence of pollution in various toxic geographies.

I am one of the editors of Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, an international journal of critical, heterodox, and interdisciplinary research into the relations between the political and the spatial.

I also serve on the editorial board of The SAGE Handbook of Global Social Theory, edited by Gurminder K. Bhambra et al. I previously co-edited Toxic News (2015-2018), a quarterly e-magazine about toxic pollution in everyday life. I recently co-edited a Special Issue of Emotion, Space and Society titled 'Reclaiming failure in geography' (2021) [available here]. I am also Membership Officer of the 'Waste, Pollution and Toxicities' Working Group.

My first co-edited book 'Toxic Truths: Environmental Justice and Citizen Science in a Post Truth Age' was published in 2020 with Prof. Alice Mah (Manchester University Press):

My pronouns are he/him. Twitter here | Google Scholar here.

Expertise Summary

Media Engagement:

I recently collaborated with investigative journalists Lighthouse Reports and media partners Der Spiegel, iNews, and Tagesschau (German TV News) to investigate the rise in deaths of people on the move at EU borders. My work regularly appears in the media including interviews with BBC Future, the Guardian, and Newsweek.

You can listen to an interview with me on Surviving Society podcast here: Racialised EU border violence, 2021.

Media publications include:

Policy Engagement and Impact

After co-producing the first public health investigation of a European refugee camp: 'An Environmental Health Assessment of the New Migrant Camp in Calais' (2015) alongside Surindar Dhesi and Arshad Isakjee, I provided written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Migration, including the 'Migration crisis inquiry' (2015) [available here] and Commons Select Committee 'European responses to irregular migration' (2019) [available here]. I have also submitted evidence to the 'International Development Committee inquiry into the effects of COVID-19 on developing countries and those hosting refugees' (2020) [available here], for the the Department of International Development (DFID). At the EU level, I have presented ongoing research about border violence to MEPs and members of the European Commission in Brussels. The interdisciplinary research about about Covid-19 and the waste industry has contributed to the report: 'UK Waste Sector COVID-19 Response and Resilience Report' (CIWM 2020).

Teaching Summary

I do an enormous amount of teaching across a wide range of modules. These include:

Globalisation: Economy, Power and Space | Techniques in Human Geography | Exploring Human Geography | Research Tutorials | Dissertation Supervision | Dissertation Preparation | Political Geography | Health Geography | First Year Tutorials | the Lake District Field trip | Project in Environmental Leadership and Management | and People and the Environment (MSc core module conveynor)

PhD Supervision:

I welcome PhD prospective candidates interested in any area of research. I am particularly interested in supervising PhD projects focusing on the following subjects: Toxic Geographies | No Borders Activism | Environmental justice | Critical Migration | Refugees | Violent geographies | Slow violence

Current PhD students:

Research Summary

Externally Funded Research Projects

  • 2022-2025 'Channel Crossing: Irregular journeys, policies and politics in the English Channel' ESRC [Project Website], Co-I (£584,000)
  • 2021-2022 'Modern Slavery Risk GEOBarometer: Supporting Transparency in Supply Chains and Due Diligence' UK Space Agency, Co-I (£502,050)
  • 2020-2021: 'Waste management during the COVID-19 outbreak: investigating a critical sector in crisis' ESRC "UKRI Ideas to Address COVID-19", Co-I (£271,000)
  • 2019- 2021: 'Fragile Resistance on the EU Borderzone: The Peaceful Geographies of the Refugee Crisis' Antipode Foundation Scholar Activist Project [Working alongside activist-group No Name Kitchen] Co-PI (£10,000)
  • 2015-2016: 'Environmental Health in the Calais Refugee Camp' ESRC Impact Accelerator. Co-PI (£5,000)
  • 2014: 'From Chernobyl to Fukushima: the social fallout of Japan's nuclear meltdown' Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) PI (£6,000)

Recent Publication:

'Channel Crossings: offshoring asylum and the afterlife of empire in the Dover Strait'

This recent Ethnic and Racial Studies article [available Open Access here] explores responses to irregular crossings of the English Channel in small boats, fantasies of offshoring, and legacies of colonialism at the UK border. It's the first academic output from the ESRC funded 'Channel Crossings' project, with an interdisciplinary team including Dr Arshad Isakjee (University of Liverpool), Dr Joe Turner (University of York) and Dr Lucy Mayblin (University of Sheffield).

Snapshot from the field:

Above: a pre-Covid photograph from fieldwork in Bosnia for the Antipode Foundation Scholar Activist Project, as discussed in The Independent, here.

Selected Publications

If you would like to collaborate with me on a research idea, writing project, or any other initiative, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

I have worked alongside some fantastic people and organisations, including:

Investigative journalism newsrooom Lighthouse Reports and the grassroots movement No Name Kitchen, as well as Arshad Isakjee (University of Liverpool), Alice Mah (University of Warwick), Becky Alexis-Martin (Manchester Metropolitan University), Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik (Aston University), Karolína Augustová (University of Glasgow) Surindar Dhesi (University of Birmingham), Tom Disney (Northumbria University), Elly Harrowell (Coventry University), Joe Turner (University of York), Lucy Mayblin (University of Sheffield), Angeliki Balayannis (University of Exeter), and Doctors of the World, among many others. I am also indebted to the many research participants and communities who have informed my work over the years.

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