ROBERT A. SAUNDERS, Ph.D.

UPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS 

"Screening the Nordic City: The Politics of Place and Space in Contemporary Crime Series,"  hosted by MEDEA & Malmö University’s Institute for Urban Research at Panora, Malmö, Sweden (December 10, 2019)
For many people outside Northern Europe, what they know about Malmö comes what they see on their television screens. The worldwide success of the Swedish-Danish crime drama Bron|Broen has come to serve as the main source of information about Sweden’s ‘southern capital’. Professor Robert A Saunders (State University of New York) will speak about his research on the imagining of Malmö via the series, and how other internationally-successful Nordic noir series such as the Bordertown (set in Lappeenranta, Finland) and Dicte (set in Aarhus, Denmark) shape international perspectives of Norden and its lived spaces.  Focusing on various aspects of the ‘city’ – including history, economics, architecture, culture, etc. – his talk will critically assess the pros and cons of being seen as a zone of murder and mystery, regardless of the day-to-day realities of the typical Nordic city. The discussant in this Medea Talk is Annette Hill, Professor of Media and Communication at Lund University. Gabriel Flores Jair, who plays the pathologist in Bron/Broen, will also take part in the conversation. For more information, click HERE. As part of my guest researcher position at the Institute for Urban Research at Malmö University, I also gave an interview to Sverige Radio and Sydsvenskan about The Bridge and the imaginary of the city though the lens of the series.

Additionally, I gave a talk entitled 'Getting over Borat: Exploring the (After-)Effects of Parody in the Post-Soviet Realm' at Russia and the Caucasus Regional Research (RUCARR), which looked back at my research on Sacha Baron Cohen vs. Kazakhstan while also looking forward to the increasingly fraught geopolitics of laughter with regards to the former Soviet Union.
"Sounding the Anthropo(s)cene: The Passion of the Geos in Contemporary Planetary Politics," with Gabriella Calchi Novati, Touching Sound: Passion and Global Politics, Aga Khan University, London, UK (October 11, 2019)
Focusing on a narrow spectrum of our larger interrogation of the screened sound(s) of the so-called Anthropocene, our intervention explores the ways in which popular culture, and more specifically, screened artefacts address the passion, that is the suffering, of the planet as geos. Engaging with Ludovico Einaudi’s video Elegy for the Arctic (2016), and scenes from Alfonso Cuaron’s film Children of Men (2006), our intervention is meant to be a sounding board to think and feel in the ‘hereness’ (Povinelli 2016) what is and/or is not the more-than-human language of the geos, and how are we to listen to its very passion. With the term Anthropo(s)cene, we performatively suggest that the anthropocene, a highly contested term, can also be understood as a visual and aural devise of non-anthropocentric knowledges; a scene in which messages that exceed humanly-manufactured signifiers perform and call for our attention. Moreover, we critically employ the notion of sounding in two ways, each of which is derived from a separate etymology of the term: 1) how silence, music, and various sounds produced by man - anthrophony, nature - biophony, and the planet – geophony resonate among audiences; and 2) how popular culture probes the depths of the ongoing climate crises, inviting audiences to reflect on humanity's (in)action(s). We claim that a critical examination of the ways in which anthrophonic, biophonic, and geophonic soundscapes – always already combined with silence(s) – shows the extent to which popular culture communicates geopolitical knowledges able to sculpt sensorial collective imaginaries of a planet in pain.
“The Political Culture(s) of European Crime Series: Place, Power, Identity,” EURONOIR: Producers, Distributors and Audiences of European Crime Narratives, Aalborg University, Denmark (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.

PAST PRESENTATIONS AND SYMPOSIA 

"Effigial Representation, Ritual & Resistance: Connecting the Mind and Body to Everyday IR" with Rhys Crilley, European International Studies Association meeting, Sofia, Bulgaria (September 13, 2019)
"ICYMI: RT and the Social Media Aesthetics of the ‘New Cold War’" with Rhys Crilley and Precious Chatterje-Doody, European International Studies Association meeting, Sofia, Bulgaria (September 12, 2019)
“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)
“Screening the ‘Crisis’: European Television Fiction, Geographical Imagination and Mediated World-Building,” 8th Nordic Geographers Meeting, Trondheim, Norway (June 18, 2019)
“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)
“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)
“Nordic Television Drama, Screened (Geo)Politics and the Refugee Crisis,” Reimagining Norden in an Evolving World, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (March 8, 2019)
"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 28, 2019)
“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)