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Sophie Blackburn

Sophie Blackburn profile picture
  • Undergraduate teaching: Introducing Human Geography (module lead); Contemporary Issues in Human Geography (module lead); Research training for Geography and Environmental Science; Geography and Environmental Science Dissertation.

Areas of interest

  • Development geography
  • Political ecology, politics of scale
  • Disaster risk reduction, resilience and vulnerability
  • Post-disaster politics and risk governance
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Participation, local agency and resistance

Research projects


Sophie is a human geographer specialising in the relationship between uneven development and disaster risk. She is particularly interested in the politics and governance of disasters: how power relations at multiple scales shape geographies of vulnerability and resilience; and the negotiation of (alternative) post-disaster development trajectories. Her research explores the emergence of local agency to resist or transform structural root causes of risk, drawing on theoretical approaches including the political ecology of risk, critical development geography, citizenship, social contracts and political philosophy. To date her research has focused empirically in the Caribbean, the Andaman Islands, South India 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 was Senior Lecturer in Development Geography at Oxford Brookes University, and before that an Early Career Fellow in Liberal Arts department at King’s College London. Her research is interdisciplinary and she has collaborated with anthropologists, philosophers, artists and physical scientists.

Sophie’s current research includes the GCRF-funded international research hub Tomorrow’s Cities, which seeks to reduce disaster risk for the poor in rapidly growing cities of the global South. 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). She has published in leading journals including Geoforum, Progress in Human Geography and Sustainability, and a co-edited book Megacities and the coast: Risk, Resilience and Transformation (Routledge).


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