Upcoming and Recent Events

"Branding KZ in Cyberspace: Ten Years after Borat," Silk Roads Again II: Eurasian Studies in the Digital Age, Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea (8-9 December 20177)
My talk will focus on Kazakhstan’s increasingly sophisticated use of global, Anglophone social media to engage in state branding, contextualising these efforts via the frame of transnational digitisation of the nation. In the decade since the premiere of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), Astana has proved itself adept at using the Internet to achieve tangible and wide-reaching goals in its efforts to burnish the reputation of the Republic of Kazakhstan, despite the myriad challenges that confront the post-Soviet republics when it comes to differentiating and distinguishing their brands in purported ‘global supermarket’ of nation-states. This paper explores the ways in which Kazakhstan’s various national identity entrepreneurs engage in cyberspace-based spectacle to inform polities in the West about the country, focusing on a clearly defined set of markers (most of which are associated with the rapidly-growing capital, Astana). My presentation will survey a number of initiatives intended to increase the visibility of Astana as: 1) a global meeting place; 2) the centre of Eurasia and the new Silk Road; and 3) the city of the future; this is done with a particular focus on social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Using approaches drawn from the emergent field of ‘new diplomacy’ studies and popular geopolitics, I will situate this effort within a larger informational war raging across Eurasian space, arguing that Kazakhstan has proven adept at rising above the fray, effectively carving out a space that is generally bereft of the style of politics that has otherwise come to define the ‘post-Soviet condition’ in recent years.
"Beer as Geopolitical Intervention: Effigy, Sensory Politics, and Resistance in Everyday IR” at Popular Culture and World Politics v. 10, Newcastle University, UK (23-25 November 2017)
My talk will cover the main points in my forthcoming article (co-authored with Jack Holland) on the impact of transnational craft beer on geopolitics. In the paper, we draw on work on popular culture, critical geopolitics, visual politics, affect and the everyday in order to develop a framework for the analysis of the ritual of beer consumption as discursive intervention. Specifically, we argue the need for International Relations to expand theories of visual politics to a broader ‘sensory politics’, incorporating taste, smell, and touch. For our case study, we explore the empirical contestation of dominant geopolitical discourses, critically analysing the production and consumption of two explicitly and intentionally political beers: Norwegian brewery 7 Fjell’s release of ‘The Donald Ignorant IPA’; and Scottish BrewDog’s production of ‘Hello, My Name is Vladimir’. Conceptualising the ritual of these beers’ consumption as affective, effigial, and corporeal discursive interventions, we encourage a move beyond the visual to the sensory, in order to make sense of beers’ (limited) potential for resistance within everyday IR.
"Scoping/Scaping the Geopolitical in Occupied (2015- ) and Nobel (2016- )" at the Landscapes in Television Drama Series
international research colloquium, Aarhus University, Denmark (September 28, 2017)
My talk will focus on the use of landscape in the Norwegian series Okkupert/Occupied (2015- ) and Nobel (2016- ). Building on my recent research into the evolving medium of geopolitical television or ‘IR TV’, I will examine the ways in which cityscapes and panoramas of the natural environment are employed as affective (as well as aesthetic) tools for storytelling within a geopolitically-inflected framework. Drawing on literatures from popular geopolitics and visual politics, my analysis examines the ways in which geopolitical codes and visions manifest on the small screen, reflecting a variety of insecurities associated with Norway’s current position in world affairs. I will also discuss how these two programmes have adapted key geo-visual elements of the new Nordic noir style to focus more explicitly on geopolitical questions, linking Occupied and Nobel to series such as Borgen (2010- ), Bron//Broen (2011- ), and Blå ögon/Blue Eyes (2014- ). I will also examine how these two series’ international distribution via Netflix creates sculpts the geopolitical/geographic imaginary of Norway through the effective and evocative use of location as production value.
"Fantastical Visions and Visual Fantasies of Russianness: Viking (2016) and Guardians (2017) as Agents of Russian Soft Power" at the Cinema, Soft Power and Geo-political Change symposium, University of Leeds (June 20, 2017)
My paper focuses on two recent big-budget Russian films, Viking/Викинг (2016) and Guardians/Защитники (2017), with the aim of interrogating contemporary examples of filmic fantasy. I am particularly interested in these films’ respective roles as influencers of geopolitical codes and geographical imagination, both at ‘home’ (i.e. within Russian cultural space) and ‘abroad’ (i.e. Europe, North America, and East Asia). Situated at the nexus of soft power, nation branding, and popular geopolitics scholarship, this paper employs and expands Saunders and Strukov’s analytical framework of the ‘popular geopolitics feedback loop’ (2017) as it applies to the Russian Federation. My purpose is to examine the ways in which multidirectional, geopolitically-informed mediascapes shape the ‘West’ and Russia’s respective Fremdbilder of one another, as well as prefigure changes in geopolitical attitudes, cultures and identities. By examining the (geo)visual representations and (geo)politically pregnant content of these two films in relation to their ‘Hollywood’-based counterparts (Viking bears a great semblance to HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011- ) and The History Channel’s Vikings (2013- ) while Guardians’ is a clear adaptation of Marvel’s The Avengers series (2012- ) and its adjuncts [Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc.]), this study seeks to explore the ways in which soft power flows can be more effectively employed using pre-established modalities of popular cultural persuasion. By reverse engineering profitable Western cinematic styles such as the neo-noir superhero film and the medieval political soap opera, both of which are proven to appeal to far-right elements in societies from the U.S. to Poland to Russia, Russian cultural producers are tapping into a reservoir of readily manipulated tropes that can provide long-term dividends to the Russian state in its efforts to resume its role as a major force in the world. However, as I will discuss, such retooling of Western cultural products is not without risk and may result in counter-readings that undermine Russia’s attempts at promoting the country as a source of emulation and respect, particularly when such artefacts conflate (post-)Cold War fantasies with nightmares (Guardians) or overreach in their efforts to revise history and rebrand ongoing conflicts in the near abroad (Viking).
"Imaginaries of Russian Expatria: Then and Now," at the Londongrad and Londongradians: Identities, Imaginaries and Cultural Practices of Russians in the UK workshop (sponsored by the ‘Global Russians: Transnational Russophone
Networks in the UK’ AHRC-funded research project) at the University of Edinburgh (June 16, 2017)
My talk will look at the history of Russian transformations of world cities through their presence as exiles in an effort to contextualise the contemporary geopolitical construct of ‘Londongrad’. Blending historical and contemporary imaginings of Russian émigrés to Paris, Harbin, Brooklyn, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, my focus will be on how Russianness emerges as a transformative element of urban identities through popular culture (photographs, plays, cartoons, films, and television series), and the political, economic, and social implications of such changes over time. Drawing on modalities from the field of popular geopolitics, I pay close attention to questions of ideology, class and gender, as well as issues related to ethnicity, culture and language.
"Sexing Up Russo-American Relations, Or Drumpfing Pootie-Poot," at the Media and Sexualisation of Everyday in Post-Soviet Spaces workshop at the University of Leicester, hosted by the BASEES study group on (Digital) Media and Cultures (June 15, 2017)
My talk will focus on Western Anglophone geopoliticised parodies of the sexual(ised) pairing of the two most powerful people in the world (according to Forbes): Vladimir Putin and Donald J. Trump. The primary focus will be on "The Donald’s" inexplicable bromance with VVP, interrogating how the U.S. presidential candidate and now sitting head-of-state has obsessed about having a ‘good relationship’ with the leader of the Russian Federation from the very beginning of his quest for the White House. Drawing a wide variety of popular culture artefacts, I will interrogate the ways in which cultural producers and prosumers have "sexed up" the interpersonal dynamics of Trump-Putin relationship, from Internet memes to sketch comedy to formal political commentary about the imagined love affair between these two infamous world leaders. Special attention will be paid to recent revelations that the Kremlin possesses kompromat on Trump involving "Russian prostitutes" (whom Putin claims are the "undoubtedly best in the world") and "golden showers" visited upon the U.S. President during a visit to Moscow, thus extending and formalising the sexualised nature of U.S.-Russian relations in the Trump era.
"Blank Spaces on the Map or Eurasian Chessboard? The West’s Geographical Imagination of Post-Soviet Central Asia" at the Forum on Post-Soviet Culture, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands (December 22, 2016)
My talk will begin with a brief overview of the evolution of maps and cartographic renderings of Central Asia from the Middle Ages through the contemporary era. In this context, I will discuss the paradoxical nature of the region as a "mysterious" place, yet the "heartland" of geographer Halford Mackinder’s so-called World-Island. Framed within a larger geopolitical debate, I will then discuss how the independence of the five Central Asian Republics contested as well as reaffirmed many aspects of the late nineteenth-century "Great Game" which pitted tsarist Russia against the British Empire. I will then interrogate the notion of a "New Great Game" in the region, assessing the power of geographical imagination in shaping the contours of competition for influence between the U.S. and its Western European allies, the Russian Federation, China, and regional players like Turkey and Iran. In terms of theoretical and methodological orientations, my presentation will draw on the literature of ‘imagined geographies’, particularly the works of Said, Gregory and Ó Tuathail, but will be buttressed by own work in the field of popular geopolitics in the post-Soviet realm. The primary aim of the presentation is to evoke the power of cultural constructions of space, and how geopolitically-blinkered "ways of seeing" influence cultural exchange, economic investment, and international relations between the so-called "West" and the peoples and governments of Central Asia.
"Geopolitical Television: A Brief History and Tentative Taxonomy" at Popular Culture and World Politics 9, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Canada (November 11-13, 2016)
Building on Daniel Drezner's recent assertion that "We live in a Golden Age of international relations programming on television," this presentation looks at the capacity of serialised television series to respond to headlines from around the world, as well as cater to audience tastes. Compared to film, the medium provides a substantively different platform for engaging and interrogating world affairs and negotiating geopolitical realities. With this in mind, I will discuss the emergence of so-called geopolitical TV, focusing on how technological advances have created conditions for increasingly sophisticated offerings that interrogate a wide variety of issues in world politics. Focusing on the shift towards more intellectually demanding fare since 2001, I provide a brief overview of the evolution of geopolitical TV since 2001, focusing on early examples such as Lost, The Wire, and 24, before moving on to more recent examples of ‘IR TV’ such as The Americans, Strike Back, and Engrenages. I also provide a tentative taxonomy of the genre, classifying geopolitical television series into five distinct groups: 1) (ir)realist/exotic (e.g. Berlin Station); 2) domestic/procedural (e.g. Borgen); 3) quotidian/localised (e.g. The Bridge and its two adaptations); 4) historical/revisionist (e.g. Deutschland 83); and 5) speculative/fantastical (e.g. Okkupert). In my concluding remarks, I will reflect on how geopolitical television functions both as a mirror/reflection of IR and an imaginative/predictive force in contemporary world politics.

Past Presentations and Symposia

"Global Pop-Culture Flows and the Challenge to Nation Branding Efforts" at the International Colloquium: Nation Branding and the Creative Industries - What Nation? What People? What Synergies?, Aarhus University, Denmark, September 23, 2016.
"Bridging Teaching and Research within PCWP Continuum: Bron/Broen as Assignment and Artefact" at The Winds of Change: New Challenges and Opportunities for Teaching Politics and IR, 9th Annual PSA/BISA Learning and Teaching Conference, Newcastle University, UK, September 14, 2016.
"See, Hear, Feel/Verify: Identifying Potential Case Studies in Large-Scale Popular Geopolitical Conflicts," European Workshops in International Studies (EWIS), Tübingen, Germany, April 7, 2016.
"Mapping Neofolk: A Tentative Geography of a New Musical Genre," annual convenention of the American Association of Geographers, San Francisco, CA, March 31, 2016.
"The Popular Geopolitics of the Coming Second Cold War: Anecdotes, Observations, Analysis" at Typical Russian Autocracy Versus Shockingly Depraved Europe: A Conference on Cultural Stereotypes and Popular Geopolitics in the Putin Age, University of Copenhagen, December 19, 2015.
"Mapping the Mediterranean: Imagining Mare Nostrum from the Papyrian Past to the Geovisual Present" FUA-SUNY's 7th Annual De Re Mediterrenean Conference, Florence University of the Arts, Florence, Italy, December 4, 2015.
Roundtable participation at the annual convention of Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Philadelphia, PA - "Russia as Shield (Katechon): Sculpting a New Grand Narrative through Research and Pedagogy" and "Russian Terrorism: New Avenues of Research," (November 21-22, 2015).
"Separatism in the New Millennium: Looking Back, Looking Forward," a keynote address at Pulling Together or Pulling Apart: Identity and Nationhood - Spain, Europe, the West, Department of Hispanic Studies, Trinity College Dublin, June 26, 2015.
"Geopolitical Enemy #1? Anglophone Popular Culture, Vladimir Putin, and the Politics of Representation," Russian Culture in the Era of Globalisation, University of Leeds, UK, June 11, 2015.
"'Brand' New States: Post-Socialist Europe/Eurasia, Country Branding, and the Challenges of National Differentiation," at
The Future(s) of Post-Socialism Symposium at the Post-Socialism Research Institute (PSRI), Stony Brook University, New York, April 18, 2015.
Globalization, Governance and the United Nations," Panel Chair, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Albany, New York, Septmber 23, 2015.
"The Popular Geopolitics Feedback Loop: Thinking Beyond the ‘Russia versus the West’ Paradigm," Popular Geopolitics in Russia and Post-Soviet Eastern Europe, University College - London, February 20, 2015 (co-presented with Dr. Vlad Strukov, University of Leeds).
"Neopaganism and Nationalism in Northern Europe since 1800: A Preliminary Analysis," Northern Myths, Modern Identities: The Nationalization of Mythologies in Northern Europe, University of Groningen, Netherlands, November 29, 2014.
"Borat: Satire, Politics, and National Image in the Post-Soviet "East" (Public Lecture) and "Popular Geopolitics: The Role of Film, TV, and Other Media in Contemporary International Relations" (Master Class) at the Department of Cross-Cultural & Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, November 24-25, 2014.
"Laughable Nations: Parodying the Post-Soviet Republics," Princess Dashkova Russian Centre at the University of Edinburgh, October 30, 2014.
"Imagining the Post-Soviet Realm: Popular Culture, Post- Cold War Politics and Geographical Imaginaries," School of Modern Languages and Cultures' Leeds Russian Centre, University of Leeds, October 9, 2014.
"Ancient Greco-Roman World in the Cinema," Faculty Participant, NYU's Faculty Resource Network Enrichment Seminar, June 9-13, 2014.
TEDx Talk, "Life in the Bubble: The Curious Culture(s) of Academia," Two River Theatre, Red Bank, NJ, June 11, 2014.
Closing remarks at Farmingdale State College's "A Network for Understanding the New Europe" panel discussion entitled "Subject to Negotiation: EU-US Trade," April 29, 2014.
"The Post-Soviet Bogeyman: Geographical Imagination and the Filmic Representation of Russians since 1991," Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Annual Convention, Boston, MA, November 22, 2013.
"Global Learning in College: Asking Big Questions, Engaging Urgent Challenges," Conference Attendee, Omni Providence Hotel, Providence, RI, October 3 - 5, 2013.
Caspian Forum, Invited Guest, Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City, September 25, 2013.
"The Emotional Geographies of Neopaganism: Memory, Marginality, and Metamodernism," Fourth International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies, University of Groningen, The Netherlands, July 2, 2013.
"Understanding the New Europe: Immigration," Faculty Participant, NYU's Faculty Resource Network Summer Seminar, June 10 - 14, 2013.
"The Politics of Sci-Fi: Power, Popular Culture, and Questions of Identity," invited lecture at the M.A. Program in English, Florida Gulf Coast University, March 21, 2013.
McGraw-Hill "History Digiposium" Panel Participant, Boca Raton Resort & Club, Boca Raton, FL, February 28 - March 2, 2013.
"The Geopolitics of Russophonia: Language, Cultural Programs, and Nation Branding in Post-Soviet Space," Global Russian: Exploring New Research Perspectives, Princess Dashkova Russian Centre at the University of Edinburgh, January 24, 2013.
"Pop Culture 'Worlding' Strategies: Tapping Our Students’ Cultural Knowledge Reservoirs in Discussions of World Geography," Faculty Resource Network National Symposium: New Faces, New Expectations, New Orleans, November 17, 2012.
"Policing Zombiism: Lessons for Law Enforcement, National Governments, and the International Community," invited talk at the Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Christian University, October 25, 2012.
"Zombies in the Colonies: Imperialism and Contestation of Ethno-Political Space in Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide," Monstrous Geographies: Places and Spaces of Monstrosity at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University, July 19, 2012.
Academic Fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, 10-day intensive research fellowship on terrorism and counter-terrorism, Tel Aviv, Israel, May-June 2012.
"Mediated Memories and Digital Identities" at Material Identities: Representing our National and European Selves in National Museums and Beyond, hosted by EUNAMUS, Athens, Greece, April 24, 2012.
"Mediating Arab Space: Covering the Middle East from the 'Arab Spring' through a 'Post-bin Laden World,'” Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, San Diego, CA, April 4, 2012.
"Laughing Eastwards: Parody, Power, and Popular Geopolitical Representations of the Post-Second World," Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, New York, NY, February 27, 2012.
"Turning Sheep into Wolves: Modeling Effective Strategies for Research among Online Students in the Social Sciences," Faculty Resource Network National Symposium 2011 - "Emerging Pedagogies for the New Millennium," San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 19, 2011.
"Media Matters: Anticipating and Managing Challenges to Nation Brand Identity in the Global Village," The Berlin International Economics Congress 2011: An International Conference on the Future of Global Politics, Nation Branding, Sustainable Tourism and International Investment in a Globalized World, March 13, 2011.
"(Red) Hot Wires: The Soviet Legacy and Its Impact on New Media Zones in Eurasia," The Etiology and Ecology of Post-Soviet Communication, Columbia University, May 7, 2010.
"The Ghost in the Machine: Digital Power Structures and the Soviet Legacy in the New Eurasia," New Media in the New Europe-Asia, University of Birmingham, March 30, 2010.
Organizer and panelist, "Reading and Writing Russia in 1s and 0s: Digital Culture, New Media, and the Virtual Vox Populi" (Roundtable), National Convention of the Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Boston, MA, November 13, 2009.
"Cyber-Nationalism in the Virtual Near Abroad," Office of the Director of National Intelligence Open Source Center Workshop’s "The Impact of Emerging Media on Russian Reality,' Reston, VA, September 10, 2009.
Invited participant at the Open Society Institute’s Higher Education Support Program (HESP) Regional Seminar for Excellence in Teaching: "Visual Studies of Immedia: Exploring Postmodern Immediacy of Mass Media," European Humanities University, Vilnius, Lithuania, May 23-27, 2009.
"Mapping the Digital Geography of the Second World: From the Land of Тетрис to the LiveJournal Nation," Centre for Advanced Studies and Education (CASE) Visual and Cultural Studies Laboratory at the European Humanities University, May 22, 2009.
"[Not] Made in the USSR: A Comparative Study of Nation Branding Strategies across Post-Soviet Space," Constructing Nation: From Modernity to the New Millennium, Univ. of Colorado, March 13, 2009.
"Branding Terror: How Islamist Terrorists Use Image-Making and International Marketing in the Global Village," International Studies Association Annual Convention, New York, NY, February 18, 2009.
"Beyond Dracula: Branding Transylvania as a European Region," National Convention of the Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Philadelphia, PA, November 20, 2008.
"Between the Matrix and Moscow: Cyber-Russians in the Near Abroad," Russia Online: the Russian-Language Blogosphere and Participatory Internet conference at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University, October 17, 2008.
"Extending the ‘Europe of Regions’ up to and beyond the Carpathians," International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA, March 27, 2008.
"Making an Islamic Nation: How the West Turned Muslims into Ummahists," Immigration, Minorities and Multiculturalism in Democracies conference, Montréal, Quebec (Canada), October 25, 2007.
"A Silk Purse from a Pig’s Ear? The 9/11 Effect on Putin's 'War on Terrorism,'" International Studies Association Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, February 28, 2007.
"Kazakhstan versus Sacha Baron Cohen: (Mis)representations of Post-Soviet Central Asian Identity in the West," National Convention of the Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Washington, DC, November 18, 2006.
"Digital Imaginaries of Power: National Minorities, Cyberspace, and the New Politics of Reality," American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, August 31, 2006.
"New Russians, New Media, New Abroad," The Mass Media in Post-Soviet Russia International Conference (BASEES), University of Surrey (UK), April 7, 2006.
"Borat Sagdiyev, the Bête Noire of Kazakhstan," British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) Annual Conference, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (UK), April 3, 2006.
"Transnational Reproduction and Its Discontents: The Politics of Intercountry Adoption in a Global Society," International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Diego, CA, March 23, 2006.
"Terrorism’s Role in Shaping Post-War France, the European Union, and the Muslim Presence in the West," 25th Anniversary Conflict Studies Conference, University of New Brunswick (Canada), October 15, 2005.