Tom Disney

Tom Disney

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Doctoral Researcher

Contact details

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

Title of PhD: Geographies of Orphan Care in the Russian Federation

Supervisors: Dr Dominique Moran, Dr Phil Jones (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Dr Jeremy Morris (Russian Studies)

Tom Disney is undertaking ESRC funded doctoral research into the spatial aspects of orphan care in the Russian Federation.

There has been a move within the social sciences, and particularly Children’s Geographies, to see children and young people as social agents rather than passive recipients of adult knowledge and power (James et al. 1998). Similarly there has been a move within the Geographies of Health and Care to understand the social and cultural construction of spaces of care through the agency of the carers and the care recipients who use them (Milligan 2001, Philo 1987).

This research will bring together the sub-disciplines of Children’s Geographies and Geographies of Health and Care to examine the ways in which orphaned children display agency within these spaces of institutional care, and the ways in which these spaces are socially and culturally constructed by the adults providing the care and the children as recipients of that care.


MA Central and East European Studies & Russian (Joint Hons), University of Glasgow.

MA Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham.


Tom Disney previously studied Central and East European Studies and Russian at degree level at the University of Glasgow. He then undertook a Masters in Russian and East European Studies at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham. In 2011 he was awarded funding in the form of an ESRC +3 studentship in Central and East European Language-Based Area Studies (CEELBAS).


Research interests

  • Orphan Care
  • Ethnographic methods
  • Visual methods
  • Children’s geographies
  • Geographies of health and care
  • Language based area studies (Russia)

Other activities

Tom is actively involved in charity and NGO work having volunteered in a children’s home in the Russian Federation in 2005, 2006 and 2011. From 2005 - 2014 he was on the board of trustees of Ecologia Youth Trust, an organization that provides technical and financial support to therapeutic orphan care projects in Russia, Georgia and Uganda, as well as an innovative project supporting women with HIV/AIDS in Kenya. In 2007/2008 he worked for Civic Assistance, an NGO in Moscow which provides educational, legal, financial and emotional support to forced migrants within the former USSR. 

Tom is a member of the following organisations:

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • Postgraduate Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS)
  • Postgraduate Fellow of the British Association of East European Studies (BASEES) 
  • Postgraduate Fellow of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)
  • Member of the Asylum and Post-Asylum Spaces research cluster at the University of Glasgow


Moran, D, M A Hutton, L Dixon & T Disney (forthcoming 2017) ‘Daddy is a difficult word for me to hear’: Carceral geographies of parenting and the prison visiting room as a contested space of situated fathering Children’s Geographies

Disney, T. (forthcoming 2017) ‘Orphanages as Spaces of Care and Control’ in Pyer, M. and J. Horton (eds.) Children, Young People and Care Routledge: London. 

Disney, T. (2015) ‘The Role of Emotion in Institutional Spaces of Russian Orphan Care: Policy and Practical Matters’ in Blazek, M. and P. Kraftl (eds.) Children’s Emotions in Policy and Practice: Mapping and Making Spaces of Childhood Basingstoke: Palgrave. 

Pykett, J. and Disney, T. (2015) ‘Brain-targeted Teaching and the Biopolitical Child’ Kallio, K. P. and Mills, S. (eds.) (2015) Politics, Citizenship and Rights, Vol. 7 of Skelton, T. (ed.) Geographies of Children and Young People. Springer: Singapore.

Disney, T. (2015) ‘Complex Spaces of Orphan Care – A Russian Therapeutic Children’s Community’ Children’s Geographies 13(1): 30-43.

Disney, T. (2015) [Review] ‘Remembering the Cultural Geographies of a Childhood Home’’ Children’s Geographies 13(5): 618-619.

Disney, T., E. Harrowell, R. Mulhall, and M. Ronayne (2013) ‘Doctoral researcher skill development: learning through doing’ Planet 27(2): 14-20.

Disney, T. (2012) ‘Краткий обзор советской концептуализации молодежи [A Short Overview of Soviet Conceptualisations of Youth]’ Rusistika No. 37

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