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Sophie Blackburn

  • Undergraduate teaching: Introducing Human Geography (module lead); Contemporary Issues in Human Geography (module lead); Research training for Geography and Environmental Science

Areas of interest

  • Development geography
  • Disaster politics and risk governance
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Political ecology
  • Citizenship and participation

Research projects


Sophie is a human geographer and political ecologist specialising in the relationship between uneven development and disaster risk. Her work examines how power relations at multiple scales shape geographies of vulnerability and resilience. She seeks to further understand the conditions under which local communities seek to resist or transform structural root causes of risk. To date her research has focused in the Caribbean, India (Andaman Islands) and Nepal.

Sophie has a PhD in Human Geography and an MSc in Disasters, Development and Adaptation from King’s College London, and a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge. Prior to joining the University of Reading in 2022, Sophie worked in the Liberal Arts department at King’s College London and as Lecturer in Development Geography at Oxford Brookes University. Her research is interdisciplinary and she has collaborated with anthropologists, artists and physical scientists.

Sophie is currently part of the GCRF-funded international project Tomorrow’s Cities, which seeks to reduce disaster risk for the poor in rapidly growing cities. She is a contributing author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 Cross-Chapter Paper ‘Cities and Settlements by the Sea’, and has undertaken consultancy for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Her publications include papers in Geoforum, Progress in Human Geography and Sustainability, and a co-edited book Megacities and the coast: Risk, Resilience and Transformation (Routledge).

Sophie’s ongoing research examines the political legacy of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in the Andaman Islands, South India. Drawing on scholarship on citizenship and social contracts, she examines how local communities’ experience of post-disaster relief and rehabilitation reshaped ideas of state responsibility and personal political identity. Her current work also explores the governance, ethics and trade-offs associated with climate change adaptation.