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Research Staff

Sophie Blackburn

Liberal Arts Early Career Development Fellow in Geography 

Address  Liberal Arts Department
Room 4.50, Virginia Woolf Building
King’s College London
22 Kingsway
London, WC2B 6LE






Sophie is a Human Geographer specialising in the politics and governance of disaster risk in the Global South. As well as teaching and researching at Kings for a number of years, she has previously taught at the London School of Economics, and undertaken consultancy work on urban risk and resilience for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP-LOICZ). In 2014 she co-edited a book on coastal megacities for Routledge and co-wrote an international report on the UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient campaign. Most recently, before joining King’s as a Liberal Arts Early Career Development Fellow in Geography in 2017, Sophie completed her PhD thesis on evolving social contracts in the Andaman Islands in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Sophie holds an MSc in Disasters, Adaptation and Development from KCL and a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge. 

Research interests and PhD supervision
  • Key research themes: political ecology of disaster risk; the politics of scale; disaster governance; post-disaster resettlement and recovery; the role of identity and belonging in citizenship formation; social contract theory; climate change adaptation.
  • Regional foci: Jamaica, South India (Andaman and Nicobarese Islands, Tamil Nadi, Pondicherry), the Philippines.

Sophie adopts an interdisciplinary lens to explore the intersection between disaster risk governance, international development, and the micro-politics of citizenship formation. She is primarily interested in how disaster risk management serves as a space for the expression and/or evolution of cross-scale politics – with a particular focus on the conditions shaping local participation in decision-making. In her most recent work Sophie has developed social contract analysis as a conceptual approach to explore relationships of co-dependency at and across scales, and the pathways through which local people imagine and exert power over the state.

Selected publications
  • Blackburn, S. “(Re)Negotiating social contracts in the post-disaster space: citizenship formations in the Andaman Islands, South India”, PhD thesis submitted to the Department of Geography at King’s College London, August 2017, supervised by Prof Mark Pelling.
  • Blackburn, S. (2014) “The politics of scale and disaster risk governance: barriers to decentralisation in Portland, Jamaica”, Geoforum, 52, pp.101-112.
  • Pelling, M. and Blackburn, S. (eds.) (2014) Megacities and the Coast: Risk, Resilience and Transformation, London: Routledge.
  • Johnson, C. and Blackburn, S. (2014) “Advocacy for urban resilience: UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient campaign”, Environment and Urbanization, 26(1), pp.29-52.
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