Upcoming and Recent Events

“The Political Culture(s) of European Crime Series: Place, Power, Identity,” EURONOIR: Producers, Distributors and Audiences of European Crime Narratives, Aalborg University, Denmark (September 30-October 2, 2019)
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics defines ‘political culture’ as ‘the attitudes, beliefs, and values which underpin the operation of a particular political system’. Necessarily broad in scope, this keynote will assess the ways in which televised crime series engage and shape various societies’ skills, knowledge, and attitudes about the operation of political systems, both within their countries of residence and across the European continent. Recognising the existence of elite cultures and marginalised subcultures within national polities, as well as protean transnational political cultures that ignore borders, I aim to expand the understanding of how television ‘scripts’ reactions to political events in different societies. I am particularly interested in this phenomenon when it comes to societal cleavages such as populism, migration, securitisation, and neoliberalism. Moving beyond the contention that popular culture represents a ‘mirror’ of world politics, this examination of televised crime dramas builds on my earlier work on the premediation of politics via screened interventions, while also reflecting on popular culture as a key site for negotiating reality and projecting possible futures. In terms of artefacts, I explore mix of recent and internationally-popular crime series which exist in specific national contexts but reflect transnational concerns, including Taken Down (Ireland), Marcella (UK), Warrior (Denmark), Gomorrah (Italy), Ultraviolet (Poland), and Stella Blómkvist (Iceland). Additionally, I investigate several series with a strong transnational component woven into the narrative, such as Pagan Peak (Germany/Austria), The Tunnel (UK/France), and Bordertown (Finland/Russia). Filtering screened crime drama through the prisms of place, power, and identity, my paper aims to interrogate the various ways in which crime drama is a modus for establishing, reinforcing, and challenging geopolitical (b)orders in a European realm that increasingly defined by unfettered flows of goods, people, money, and ideas.
“Sensing the Future of IR, or Call for a Sensorial Turn in the Discipline,” IR and Discourse Re-visited in Light of the Turns workshop, European Workshops in International Studies, Kraków, Poland (June 26-29, 2019)
A number of different ‘turns’ have characterised the trajectory of International Relations (IR). In this paper, I employ a call for a turn towards the sensorial realm in IR to highlight the benefits, as well as the blind spots, of recent turns in the field, such as the spatial (Lefebvre 1991), visual (Rose 2001), aesthetic (Bleiker 2001), affective (Hoggett and Thompson 2012) and digital (Nicholson 2013). Drawing a line from discourse to the visual to the affective to the sensual, I aim to provide an archaeology of this evolution, before shifting to a discussion of why IR needs to go beyond speech acts, seeings and emotions into areas that are bound to make empirical researchers quite uncomfortable, notably sound, taste, smell and touch, as well as various forms of interoception. While it is common to speak of a ‘visceral response’ to some traumatic event in world affairs, little work has been done in understanding what this actually means. To do so will require IR researchers to become increasingly interdisciplinary in their approaches, while also partnering with those outside the social sciences and humanities (e.g. neurobiologists) to address extant lacunae.
“Screening the ‘Crisis’: European Television Fiction, Geographical Imagination and Mediated World-Building,” 8th Nordic Geographers Meeting, Trondheim, Norway (June 16-19, 2019)
Negotiating the political pitfalls of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ (or simply the ‘Crisis’) is perhaps the greatest challenge that contemporary Europe faces. While the continent has long been a destination for displaced people and economic immigrants from Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and farther afield, the Syrian Civil War (2011-present) triggered a spike in the numbers of migrants trying to reach the continent. While there is a rich reservoir of scholarship on media representation of the ‘refugee’ (documentaries, news, film, etc.), a gap exists in a key area of media consumption: television fiction. This paper aims to address this lacuna through an interrogation focusing on the geopolitical content of televisual narratives that engage the ‘Crisis’. Operating from Saunders’ (2017) claim that TV-viewing is an ‘affective act of world-building’ and should be viewed a part of the ‘discursive battlefield of global politics’, we explore how the ‘Crisis’ is crystallized, conveyed and transformed within and across European television fiction. We treat the (represented) ‘Crisis’ as a nested phenomenon with four components: 1) the actual presence of refugees and its everyday impact; 2) structural and societal changes associated with the mass movement of people from MENA and elsewhere; 3) anti-immigration sentiment in response to migration; and 4) the purported ‘failure’ of the European project under the weight the ‘Crisis’ (e.g. Brexit, the Hungarian ‘wall’, etc.). Our primary case study is the RTÉ drama Taken Down (2018-present), which uses the ‘Crisis’ as its dominant frame for exploring issues associated with race, gender, religious identity, crime, corruption and social cohesion in modern Ireland; however, we also explore other series which as employ the ‘Crisis’ as: 1) a peripheral element within the narration (The Tunnel 1); 2) a key part of serial, horizontal narration (Bron|Broen 4); or 3) through metaphor (Trepalium).
“Radio Free Sweden: Satirical Anti-Feminism, Danish National Identity and the Very Un-PC (Geo)Politics of Jonatan Spang,” invited keynote at Comedy and International Relations: The Rise of Humour in the Global Public Sphere, University of Warwick, UK (May 8, 2019)
Operating from Brassett and Sutton’s (2017) contention that ‘comedy is not “good” or “bad” for politics. Comedy is politics’, this paper interrogates a specific intervention of the Danish comedian Jonatan Spang, namely his purposefully unpolitically-correct spoof of the internationally-popular television genre of Nordic noir via his stand-up comedy programme Tæt på sandheden med Jonatan Spang. My main focus is on Spang’s focus on the politically-correctness of Swedish society, including how speech is regulated towards women and ethnic minorities (specifically ‘immigrant’ communities). First, we examine the spoof as a text, focusing on how it venerates, contests and deconstructs Nordic Europe’s most successful crime series, The Bridge. Second, I contextualise the artefact within Tæt på sandheden as part of Spang’s larger comedic project to ‘free’ Sweden from its pc-totalitarianism. Third, we assess and interpret the transnational politics surrounding Spang’s appearance on the Swedish political talk show Opinion Live in which he attempted to defend his intervention in bilateral cultural relations (while also subtly attacking the cultural politics of his country which has been lambasted for its anti-immigrant policies). Lastly, we discuss the importance of the controversy surrounding the satire spilling out of the region, thus resulting in a partial re-affirmation of many of the screened stereotypes of ‘Swedes’ vs Danes’, which presented in The Bridge and its numerous adaptations.
“A Critical Analysis of the Political Geographies of Black Panther,” invited keynote at Headington College and Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability workshop, University of Oklahoma (March 26, 2019)
Taking in over $1 billion in ticket sales in less than a month, Marvel Studios’ Black Panther (2018) represents a watershed in the popular geopolitical representation of Africa, reversing centuries of depictions of a "Dark Continent." While producing accolades and profits for its parent company Disney, the Oscar-nominated motion picture also makes an explicit intervention in the politics of African American-African relations through its spatial representation of the U.S. (via Oakland, California) and Africa (via the fictional country of Wakanda), while also influencing its viewers’ ideas about a third space, i.e. the geopolitical imaginary of the “black world.” Employing Black Panther as a case study, I will assess the scope and scale of popular geopolitics as resistance, elaborating on how cultural producers - as well as scholars, public intellectuals, critics and prosumers - can shift racial and spatial discourses by reframing and reinterpreting geopolitics via progressive pop-culture. His lecture will examine Black Panther’s political geographies and how the artefact intersects with ongoing transnational political movements such as Black Lives Matter and #BringBackOurGirls,
while also interrogating other trends in contemporary popular culture’s engagement with the politics of blackness in the US and abroad.
“Nordic Television Drama, Screened (Geo)Politics and the Refugee Crisis,” Reimagining Norden in an Evolving World, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (March 6-8, 2019)
The mediation of refugees is a well-established field of inquiry, particularly with the advent of new forms of mass media which quickly spread the ‘image’ of the refugee across the globe. However, past analyses of various refugee ‘crises’ have tended to examine representation in news media, film, and/or social media networks. In this paper, I focus on less-studied platform, television drama, as a medium of knowledge-production, world-building and sense-making with regards to Norden’s response to ongoing Syrian refugee ‘crisis’ (2013-present) (hereafter the ‘Crisis’), as well the region’s engagement with other forms of ‘crisis-based’ migration, whether from Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa or the Arab world. This paper begins with a brief overview of Nordic television drama’s post-millennial engagement with (geo)politics, and particularly challenges to the stability and cohesion of region and its constituent states (i.e. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland), before shifting to a more narrowly focused analysis of the ‘refugee question’ and its representation on the small screen. Here, I treat the notion of the ‘Crisis’ in a holistic manner, linking a range of responses to the amorphous notion of ‘forced migration’, therein addressing issues such as the re-imposition of border controls, increased xenophobia, the rise of right-wing populism and screened linkages between ‘immigrants’ and crime/terrorism. While this is a work in progress and I invite suggestions for additional examples, my main case studies include Bron|Broen, Blue Eyes and Trapped, with analysis of tangential elements of other series including Dicte, Warrior, Below the Surface and Occupied.
"Geopolitics at the Shoreline: Representing Coastlines as Zones of Transgression in Dramatic Television Series” at On the Edge: Rethinking and Innovating Tourism in a Coastal City workshop, Aarhus University at Hvide Sande, Denmark (February 26-28, 2019)
Drawing on three recent dramatic television series, Trapped (Iceland, 2015- ), Bloodline (USA, 2015-2017) and Shetland (UK, 2013- ), my presentation focuses on the screening of coastlines as zones of transgression, violence and contagion which jeopardize the coherence of small communities, which are economic dependent on access to the sea. With the aim of developing a comparative model for dramatic television series’ engagement with pressing issues in international geopolitics at the scales of the body, family and town, my analysis expands on my earlier work in what I have called ‘small screen IR’. I do this through a critical examination of liminality of shorelines and how the vastness of the open water threatens stability of tightly-knit communities in an era of globalisation, neoliberalism and unfettered flows of money, goods and people. Addressing the goals of the workshop, I will also propose ways in which such themes can be operationalised to produce compelling, locally-rooted content that – despite its dark nature – can promote screen tourism and buttress place-branding efforts of small coastal communities.

Past Presentations and Symposia

“Extending the Katechon: Religio-Civilizational Vectors in Russia’s Intervention in the Levant,” Striking from the Margins Conference: State, Disintegration and Devolution of Authority in the Arab Middle East, Issam Fares Institute – American University of Beirut, Lebanon (January 17, 2019)
"Screening the Regions: Framework for Studying the Geopolitical Aspects of Television Drama Series across Europe” (with Anne Marit Waade), 7th European Communication Conference, Lugano, Switzerland (November 3, 2018)
"Pissing on the Past, or the Urinal as a Space of Effigial Resistance" with Rhys Crilley (Open University, UK) at the Millennium Conference on Revolution and Resistance in World Politics, London, UK (October 27, 2018)
"Why Norden? Why Now? - Nordic Noir, (Geo)politics, and Neoliberalism" at Nordic Noir, Geopolitics and the North ReNEW workshop, Aarhus University, Denmark (October 4, 2018)
"Who Gets to Imagine the Community in Cyberspace? A Reflection on the Past(s), Present, and Future(s) of Digital Nationalism" at the Nations in Cyberspace conference, hosted by the Nationalism Studies Program, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary  (June 28, 2018)
"Screening the North: A Call for Geocriticism in Critical Television Studies," Visual Perspectives on the North and the Arctic, part of The Changing Environment of the North project, at Tampere University, Finland (June 15, 2018)
"Scandinoir’s Border-Crossings/Crossers: The Geopolitics of Nordic Transnational Television," Transnational Television Drama at Aarhus University, Denmark (June 8, 2018)
"#Geopolitics: Diplomacy in the Age of Twitter," School of International Relations at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia (April 27, 2018)
"Popular Culture Matters! Exploring the Links between Popular Culture and World Politics" at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA (April 3, 2018)
"Branding KZ in Cyberspace: Ten Years after Borat," Silk Roads Again II: Eurasian Studies in the Digital Age, Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea (December 9, 20177)
"Beer as Geopolitical Intervention: Effigy, Sensory Politics, and Resistance in Everyday IR” at Popular Culture and World Politics v. 10, Newcastle University, UK (November 24, 2017)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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)
"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.
"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.