Thom Davies

Doctoral Researcher

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Thom Davies

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Title of PhD: Bare Life and Half-Lives: marginalized communities and state-society relations in post-Chernobyl Ukraine

Supervisors: Dr Dominique Moran, Dr John Round, and Dr Rosie Day

Thom Davies is a human geographer researching Chernobyl. He is undertaking CEELBAS funded doctoral research into the ongoing social and economic fallout of the 1986 nuclear accident in Ukraine. He continues to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in and around the Chernobyl border region, as well as more broadly within Ukraine. He uses qualitative methods, including in-depth interview, participant-observation and photographic participation techniques to investigate how Chernobyl impacts upon everyday life in Ukraine. Through de Certeau’s emphasis on ‘everyday life’ (2002) and Agamben’s notion of ‘bare life’ (1998), Thom examines state-society relations in post-Chernobyl society.

Interpreting Chernobyl as an ongoing ‘process’ rather than an event – he is looking at the ways that risk understandings, informal economic ‘tactics’ of resistance (de Certeau 1984) and place attachment interact in Chernobyl’s anti-therapeutic landscapes. His ongoing research has found that many people are ‘exposed’ multiple times, not only to the variously-understood risk of invisible radiation but also to a State which is perceived as indifferent to widespread marginalization.

He has presented his research at several field-leading conferences including RGS-IBG, and after securing funding from ‘Universitas 21’ he presented his research at an international multi-disciplinary conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


(MSc) in Enterprise, Environment and Place, Geography Department, University of Birmingham

(BA) First Class hons in Geography, University of Birmingham


Thom completed his BA in Geography in 2008 and was awarded a first class honors. He achieved an MSc in ‘Enterprise, Environment, and Place’ in 2009 writing a dissertation titled ‘A Warm Glow: Chernobyl Children and their Charities’. He will be completing his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2014.

In 2013 he took a break from his research to work as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham, where on top of tutorials, dissertation supervision and marking, he taught a third year 20 credit module ‘Environment Risk and Society’, which received excellent feedback from the students.


Research interests

Chernobyl, Visual Methods, Informal Economies, Risk Perception, Post-Socialist ‘transition’, everyday life

Other activities

Aside from lecturing on Risk, Thom demonstrates on field courses in Malta and Moscow. He has also successfully taught undergraduate field-courses on Visual Geography and Geographies of Memorialization in Berlin for four consecutive years.  

Thom was recently part of the organizing committee for the Royal Geographic Society Mid-term conference 2013 held at the University of Birmingham. Entitled ‘Geographic Transitions’, over 100 delegates attended – making it the largest ever RGS Mid-term to date. over 100 delegates attended – making it the largest ever RGS Mid-term to date.

With a keen interest in photography, his work has been published in several British Newspapers, and he often uses visual methods such as photography and participatory photographic techniques in his research and academic publications.

Thom is a member of the Royal Geographic Society.


Davies T. (2013) ‘A Visual Geography of Chernobyl: Double Exposure’. International Labor and Working-Class History Vol. 84 pp116-139

Davies T. (2012) ‘The Real Chernobyl Diaries: Notes from UkraineThe Independent Newspaper (2012)

Davies T. et al (2012)‘Panic on the streets of Birmingham? Struggles over space and belonging in the Revanchist City’. Criminal Justice matters Vol. 87

Davies T. (2011) ‘Nuclear mushrooms: attitudes to risk and the state through food consumption in the Chernobyl border region’ Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference on Food Proceedings, Malaysia: University of Nottingham Press

in progress: ‘Life of the Edge: Everyday Informality around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’ Journal of Eurasian Studies [forthcoming 2015]

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