School of Geography

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Thom Davies

Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences



I am a critical environmental and political geographer interested in toxic geographies, environmental justice, and critical migration studies. I joined the University of Nottingham in September 2018 from the University of Warwick, where I worked on an ERC funded project 'Toxic Expertise: environmental Justice and the global petrochemical industry'. My work has been published in a range of 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.

My research has taken place in Ukraine, Japan, France, Serbia, Bosnia and the USA using a range of qualitative techniques. 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 conducting interdisciplinary research on an ESRC 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, with interests in contaminated landscapes including the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone in Ukraine and 'Cancer Alley' in Louisiana.

I 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 of 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' RGS-IBG 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:

My work has appeared in a variety of media outlets, including interviews with BBC Future, the Guardian, and RT. In addition, I have written about my academic research across assorted newspapers articles, Op-Eds, and academic blogs.

Racialised EU border violence. 2021, interview on Surviving Society podcast

Publications include:

Policy Engagement and Impact

After co-producing (with Surindar Dhesi and Arshad Isakjee) the first public health investigation of a European refugee camp: 'An Environmental Health Assessment of the New Migrant Camp in Calais' (2015), 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 contribute substantively to a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules across the Geography and MSc degree programmes at Nottingham.

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 | Project in Environmental Leadership and Management | the Lake District Field trip.

I also convene the core module "People and the Environment" within the Environmental Leadership and Management MSc, as well as supervising MSc dissertation projects.

PhD Supervision:

I welcome PhD candidates in geography interested in any area of research. I am particularly interested in supervising PhD projects focusing on the following subjects: Toxic Geographies | Environmental justice | Pollution | Critical Migration | Refugee studies | Geographies of Violence | Slow violence

Current PhD students:

Research Summary

Externally Funded Research Projects

  • 2020-2021: 'Waste management during the COVID-19 outbreak: investigating a critical sector in crisis' ESRC, UKRI Ideas to Address COVID-19 [project website] 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] examines responses to irregular crossings of the English Channel in small boats, fantasies of offshoring, and legacies of colonialism at the UK border. It forms the focus of a new grant proposal currently under review with the ESRC, 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

No academic is an island, and I've had the privilege of working alongside some fantastic people and organisations. These include Arshad Isakjee (University of Liverpool), Angeliki Balayannis (University of Exeter), Alice Mah (University of Warwick), Becky Alexis-Martin (Manchester Metropolitan University), Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik (Aston University), Surindar Dhesi (University of Birmingham), Tom Disney (Northumbria University), Elly Harrowell (Coventry University), Joe Turner (University of York) , Lucy Mayblin (University of Sheffield), independent humanitarian organisation Doctors of the World, and grassroots activist movement No Name Kitchen, among many others. I am also indebted to the hundreds of research participants and communities who have informed my work over the years.

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

School of Geography

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