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Dr Liam Saddington

Teaching Associate in Human Geography and Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College

I am a political and environmental geographer who is interested in the geopolitics of climate change in relation to small island states.

Biography

Career

  • October 2021 – September 2022: ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • October 2020 – September 2022: Career Development Lecturer in Human Geography, Jesus College, University of Oxford
  • January 2021 – August 2021: Course Director and Departmental Lecturer: MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • January 2021 – March 2021: Lecturer in ‘Geopolitics in the Margins’, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford

Qualifications

  • University of Oxford, St Catherine’s College, BA Geography
  • University of Oxford, St Cross College, MSc Nature, Society and Environmental Governance
  • University of Oxford, St Catherine’s College, DPhil Geography and the Environment

Awards

  • July 2023: “Climate Justice and Young People: Bringing Fieldwork into the 21st Century”, Innovative Geography Teaching Grants, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Principal-Investigator
  • April 2023: “Sea level Rise and the ‘Decommissioning’ of Fairbourne: Geographies of (im)mobility and health in the Global North”, Wellcome Institutional Partnership Award, Principal-Investigator
  • December 2022: “Debating Global Governance: Simulating Geopolitics in School Settings”, Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme, Principal-Investigator
  • June 2022: Highly Commended in the School of Geography and the Environment Impact Awards 2022
  • November 2021: “Engaging Minority Youth in Europe: Role-Playing ‘Model UNPO'”, Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund, University of Oxford, Co-Investigator
  • May 2019: Phillip Fothergill Travel Award, St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford
  • March 2018: Dudley Stamp Memorial Awards from the Royal Geographical Society with IBG,
  • September 2017-September 2020: Wilfrid Knapp Scholar and Graduate Foundation Scholar at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford
  • October 2016: Undergraduate dissertation highly commended by the Political Geography Research Group
  • September 2016-September 2017: Nature Society and Environmental Governance Scholarship, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • October 2015: College Book Prize for Effort and Achievement of Research, St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford
  • September 2015: Gardner Prize, St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford

Research

1) Climate Change, Geopolitics and Small Island States

Liam is a political and environmental geographer whose research focuses on the geopolitics of climate change concerning small island states and rising sea levels. His work explores how the relationship between territory and statehood is being reimagined in low-lying atolls in light of rising sea levels. It examines how space and time shape understandings of climate change and the implications for critical geopolitics, adaptation, and diplomacy.

Liam is interested in how different forms of knowledge are mobilised in controversies over the futures of atoll states. Specifically, he is interested in how vertical geopolitics and geographies of the ocean intersect in the construction of atoll states as “sinking islands” and resistance to this term. His DPhil (PhD) thesis was entitled “Rising Seas and Sinking Islands: The Geopolitics of Climate Change in Tuvalu and Kiribati”.

Liam’s ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship was entitled “Prefiguring the Future: Climate Adaptation and Youth Diplomacy in Tuvalu”. Building on his doctoral research, this project has two focuses. Firstly, on the role that land reclamation plays in climate change adaptation in low-lying atoll states and its broader geopolitics. Secondly, the role of youth and youthful bodies within Tuvaluan climate diplomacy.

His current research thinks about the changing role of the UK as an environmental actor in the South Pacific, in light of the “Pacific Uplift” that the UK has initiated as part of “Global Britain”. Drawing on archival materials, Liam is tracing how historical narratives of environmental degradation, population displacement and marginality in British colonies in the South Pacific influence contemporary climate discourses.

2) Simulations and Pedagogy in Political Geography

Since 2016, Liam has worked with Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford) on developing ‘Model UNPO’ teaching resources for primary and secondary schools. Supported by a University of Oxford’s Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund Award, they adapted the materials for work with diasporic communities. As part of this project, Liam has been part of the preparatory team organising a weeklong session at the Council of Europe entitled “Unrepresented Diplomats: A Study Session for European Minority Youth on Shrinking Civic Space, Political Participation and Freedom of Association”.

Within their research, Fiona and Liam are interested in bringing together literature on the geographies of education and learning with work in political geography on the nature of stateness to think about how the geographies of play can help young people to make sense of the contemporary political world. Supported by a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, Liam is currently undertaking participant observation in primary and secondary schools.

3) Youth and Climate Justice

Climate change is of increasing concern for young people – evidenced by the rise of eco-anxiety. Liam is interested in how young people think about the future and climate change, with a particular focus on climate justice. Liam is undertaking participatory research working with schools, teachers and pupils to explore how young people conceive of what a just climate future might look like.

Currently supported by an RGS-IBG Innovative Teaching Grant, Liam is currently collaborating with Gerard Reilly (Marriotts School, Stevenage) and Miles Huppatz (Hampton Gardens School, Peterborough) to develop a scheme of work focusing on the human geographies of climate change for Year 9 pupils. Pupils will be introduced to ideas of climate mobility, climate justice and sustainability.

In addition to this, Liam is also contributing to a project led by Rachel Thorley (Churchill College) on developing a climate action toolkit for primary school students. Funded by the Isaac Newton Trust, this will be a cross-disciplinary programme on climate change which will develop subject interests across Arts, Humanities and STEM through a structured scheme of work with free, downloadable resources and hands-on resources.

Publications

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Teaching

Undergraduate

  • Course Coordinator for Part 1A Methods in Human Geography Research
  • Course Coordinator for Part 1B Living with Global Change
  • Course Coordinator for Part 1B Human Geography Research and Analysis Skills
  • Director of Skills & Methods
  • Outreach and Widening Participation Coordinator

Postgraduate

  • Deputy Director and Course Tutor for the Anthropocene Studies MPhil
  • MPhil in Holocene Climates

External activities

  • Fellow and Director of Studies for Geography, Lucy Cavendish College
  • Director of Studies for Geography, Churchill College (2023/2024)
  • College Lecturer and Director of Studies for Geography, Magdalene College
  • Academic Advisor to the UNPO Youth Network
  • Joint Editor in Chief for Routes Journal
  • Member of Environmental Mobility Research Unit
  • Member of the UNPO Sustainable Empowerment Campaign Advisory Board