The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Alison Williams

Reader in Political Geography



I am a Reader in Political Geography. My research is situated in military geographies and geopolitics. Specifically, I am interested in vertical and aerial geopolitics; analysing the role of aviation and aircraft in the projection of power across space. This interest has both historical and contemporary foci and includes work on the aerial geopolitics of the inter-war Pacific, the use of military air power to enforce international boundaries, the performativity of UK military airspaces, and the embodied geopolitics of drone warfare.


PhD Human Geography, University of Hull

MA International Relations, Keele University

BA (Hons) Geography, University of Liverpool

Roles and Responsibilities

PGR Director for Geography (2020-)

ESRC NINE DTP Human Geography pathway lead (2020-)

Degree Programme Director for Geography (L701, F800, FH82) (2015-19)

ESRC NINE DTP Conflict, Security and Justice pathway lead (2016-19) and director (2017-18)

ESRC Peer Review College member (2010-)

Northumbrian Universities Military Education Committee member (2008-2018)

Professional Recognition

Fellow of Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Previous Positions

2014-2020 - Senior Lecturer in Political Geography, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University

2011-2014 Lecturer in Human Geography, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University

2008-11: ESRC Research Fellow, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University

2007-8: Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Liverpool

2005-7: Post-Doctoral Research Associate, International Boundaries Research Unit, Geography Department, Durham University


Research Interests

My research seeks to consider ideas of geopolitics and specifically the relationships between aerial technologies and power porjection, with an empirical focus on military geography, especially relating to military air power. My work in these areas seeks to understand how aircraft can be and are used to project state power, and also how that can be challenged and disrupted. Empirically, my work ranges from the use of aviation to project US power across the interwar Pacific, through the performance of UK military airspace, to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and the relationships between bodies and technologies in the projection of military power by aircraft.

I also have a research interest in the transferable skills agenda within UK Higher Education. This encompasses pedagogic work to help develop opportunities for students to develop skills during their degree programme, but also focuses on how students might be enabled to develop other skills and knowledges at university, and the legacy of these in graduate life. This overlaps with my military geography interests in research on the University Armed Service Units.

Research Roles

PGR Director for Geography (2020-)

NINE DTP Human Geography pathway lead (2020-)

NINE DTP Conflict, Security & Justice pathway lead (2016-19)

Military, War and Security (faculty-level) Research Group - Convenor (2012-15)

Power, Space, Politics research cluster - Convenor (2012-15)

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome PhD enquiries from students interested in undertaking research on topics related to aerial geographies, geopolitics, and military geographies.

Current PhD supervisions

2019-: Tom Shrimplin - Everyday geopolitics on online video gaming (ESRC DTP)

2019-: Karen Passmore - Military Pilots, identity and flying drones (part-time self-funded)

2018-: Lauren Tibble - Playing the aerial: storytelling, spirits and the sky (ESRC DTP)

2018-: Paul Barber - Cadet forces and the skills agenda (ESRC DTP)

2012-: Panayiotis Hadjipavlis - Analysing the geopolitics of Cypriot airspace (part-time self-funded) 

Completed PhD supervisions

2015-19: Hannah Lyons - Young people, religion and popular geopolitics (ESRC DTC)

2013-17: Matthew Scott - Technogeopolitics and transcontinental railways (ESRC DTC)

2011-15: Daniel Bos - Popular geopolitics of military video games (ESRC DTC)

2008-12: Matthew Rech - Critical geopolitics of RAF recruitment (ESRC) 

Research Funding

2018-19: GPS Research Fund (£980) Interwar air defence of the UK (scoping study)

2013-14: Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence award (c.£15,000) Visualising Military Airspaces (PI; artist Dr Matthew Flintham)

2013-2014: Catherine Cookson Foundation (£700) Historical geographies of military aviation in the north-east (scoping study)

2012-15: ESRC Research Grant (c.£270,000) 'The value of University Armed Service Units' (PI; Co-I Prof Rachel Woodward; Co-I & SRA Dr Neil Jenkings) ES/J023868/1

2011-12: Newcastle University Teaching and Learning Committee Innovation Fund (c. £3000) 'Learning from Research Practice: developing a web-based video resource that will provide Geography dissertation students with examples of how Geography staff and postgrads do their research' (with Simon Tate)

2009-2010: HaSS Faculty Research Fund (£3650) 'The graduate skills agenda and the university armed services experience'

2008-2011: ESRC Research Fellowship (c. £350,000 including PhD studentship)'The Geographies of Military Airspaces' - RES-063-27-0154

2001-2005: ESRC Open Competition PhD funding (c. £40,000)'Aviation Technogeopolitics and the Territorialisation of the Pacific as US Space, 1918-1941'- R42200134521


In 2020-21 I will be contributing to the following modules:

GEO2047 Political Geography

GEO3099 Dissertation

GEO3102 Geopolitics