Dr Thom Davies

Dr Thom Davies

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Research Fellow

Contact details

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

Website: www.thomdavies.com

Thom Davies is a human geographer interested in how people experience and informally negotiate exclusion, disaster and marginalisation. He is currently working on ESRC funded research in the new Calais migrant camp known as the ‘New Jungle’.

His CEELBAS funded doctoral research investigates the ongoing social and economic fallout of the 1986 nuclear accident in Ukraine. While conducting long-term qualitative fieldwork with communities in the Chernobyl border region, he adopted a range of ethnographic and visual methods to explore the lived experience of nuclear space.

In 2014 Thom was awarded a JSPS Summer Programme Scholarship and became a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Urban Engineering, University of Tokyo. Building on his experiences in Chernobyl, he undertook qualitative research with communities impacted by the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear accident.

Thom has been interviewed about his research on BBC radio, as well as national radio in Italy and Russia. 


PhD in Human Geography, University of Birmingham

(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 honours. He achieved an MSc in ‘Enterprise, Environment, and Place’ in 2009 writing a dissertation titled ‘A Warm Glow: Chernobyl Children and their Charities’. He completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham in early 2015 with a thesis titled ‘Half Lives and Bare Life: an Informal Geography of Chernobyl’. His supervisors were Dr Dominique MoranDr John Round, and Dr Rosie Day.

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 wrote and delivered a third year 20 credit module ‘Environment Risk and Society’, which received excellent feedback from the students.

In 2014 Thom conducted comparative Chernobyl-Fukushima research in Japan with a scholarship from JSPS.

After being awarded Urgency Funding from the ESRC in 2015 he undertook research in the ‘New Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, which intersected Public Health and Human Geography. 


Research interests

Chernobyl, Migration, Visual Methods, Informal Economies, Risk Perception, everyday life, Fukushima, Ethnography

Research group

Society, Economy and Environment

Other activities

Thom’s photographic work has been exhibited in various galleries including Portrait Salon, and he has been published in several British Newspapers. He often uses visual methods such as photography and participatory photographic techniques as part of his research methodology and research output.

In addition to 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 five consecutive years.

Thom was 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. 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.

Thom is a member of the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES).

Thom is a member of the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES).


Academic Publications:

Davies T. and Isakjee A. (2015 forthcoming) The Calais Camp: Geography and the ‘Migration Crisis’ Political Geography

Davies T. (2015) ‘Nuclear Borders: informally negotiating the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone’ in Morris J. and Polese A. [eds] Rethinking Informality: the embedded nature of post-socialist informal economic practices. Palgrave: London

Davies T. and Polese A. (2015) ‘Informality and Survival in Ukraine’s nuclear landscape: living with the risks of Chernobyl’. Journal of Eurasian Studies Vol. 6 No. 1 pp34-45

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

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. (2012) ‘Eyewitness, Birmingham’ 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 



Davies T. (2015) Half Lives and Bare Life: an Informal Geography of Chernobyl Ph.d thesis


Media Publications: 

Davies T., Dhesi S., and Isakjee A. (2015) ‘Is this really Europe?’: refugees in Calais speak of desperate conditions The Conversation 

Dhesi S., Davies T., and Isakjee A. (2015) Public health fears in Calais ‘New Jungle’ Environmental Health News 

Davies T. (2014) ‘Ukraine’s other crisis: Living in the shadow of Chernobyl – where victims receive just 9p a month and are left to fend for themselves’ The Independent Newspaper (lead cover story) 

Davies T. (2012) ‘The Real Chernobyl Diaries: Notes from Ukraine’ The Independent Newspaper