Current Projects

The thrust of my current research agenda explores the intersections between screened fiction (specifically dramatic television series), geopolitics, and (trans)national identities. My core project is a monograph tentatively entitled The Geopolitics Nordic Noir Television, which is under contract with Routledge’s Popular Culture and World Politics series. This text builds on my previous work on: 1) developing a typology of geopolitical television (Geopolitics); 2) the role of The Bridge and its first two adaptations in premediating geopolitical developments in Sweden/Denmark, U.S./Mexico, and Great Britain/France (Social & Cultural Geography); and 3) my analysis of the Finnish-Russian border zone in the series Bordertown (TV/Series). Ancillary projects include a large-scale collaboration with colleagues at Aarhus University, University of Leeds, and University of Bologna on screening the so-called “Refugee Crisis” and the impact of televisual interventions on social and civic cohesion across Europe, as well as several forthcoming book chapters on crime drama, neoliberalism, and transborder issues. Additionally, I am contributing an article to a special issue of Nordicom Review on geopolitics and Nordic noir (which I am also co-editing), in which I examine the depiction of (geo)political landscapes in the Norwegian series Occupied and Nobel. I am also engaged in research on how Danish comedian Jonatan Spang’s satirical rendering of The Bridge’s dynamics is being used as a tool for interrogating differences in political culture across the Øresund Strait, specifically those related to gender, ethnicity, migration, and free speech.
In the mid-19th century, tsarist Russia went to war with an international coalition of Western countries and the Ottoman Empire over the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land. A century-and-a-half later, the Russian Federation launched a military campaign to support the Assad regime in Syria, pitting Moscow against the U.S., France, and other powers in the region. In both instances, the Russian state advocated a messianic mission based on ‘protecting’ imperiled peoples and preserving civilization from chaos. Using Engström’s concept of katechon (κατέχων), this paper examines the visual and discursive geopolitics of Russia’s current engagement in the Levant through the lens of ‘withholding chaos’. My case study, which is part of the Striking from the Margins project based Central European University, interrogates the visual securitization of the holy city of Palmyra and the subsequent concert held there by the Russian military in May 2016. With a focus on the current splintering of the Levant along sectarian and ethnic lines, I examine the moralistic and deontological frameworks that Russia employs in its use of military force, while also reflecting on historical parallels in the country’s past involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean. By framing intervention in religio-civilizational terms, I argue that Russia is using the Levant as a key plank in the resumption of its long-held status as the global defender of traditional values, true religion, and genuine culture.
Finnish programming is increasingly finding success beyond the country’s borders. Sorjonen - or as it is known internationally, Bordertown - is perhaps the best example of this trend, having been distributed with subtitles in multiple languages via Netflix. Set in the idyllic lakeside resort of Lappeenranta, which is also Finland’s closest city St. Petersburg, Russia, Bordertown revolves around Detective Inspector Kari Sorjonen (Ville Virtanen) following his relocation there in the wake of his wife’s illness. Hoping to leave major crimes behind in the capital of Helsinki, Sorjonen is soon investigating horrific violence and gruesome events. The criminal networks he discovers often extend far beyond tiny Lappeenranta, thus placing the city at the nexus of illicit flows that link Russia to continental Europe. While Bordertown does not engage in the crass Russophobia of many other screened geopolitical interventions, the series does deploy its setting’s geopolitical liminality to engage with a variety challenges to Europe. Drawing on my previous work on The Bridge's imagining of Malmö through the critical lens of Nordic noir, this essay interrogates Bordertown’s use of a real place, i.e. Lappeenranta, to sculpt a geopolitical imaginary that can tell a story. Focussing on a variety of elements from water to windmills and from the city council to the cellar, I employ various scales of engagement (i.e. the local, border, state, land and nation) to examine the series’ narrative, dramaturgical and visual "scaping" of a chimerical "border town" that maps on to the "real" city of Lappeenranta. Informed by my June 2018 Bordertown TV-Series Walking Tour, my analysis synthesises approaches from cultural geography, critical IR and media studies to assess the Bordertown’s intervention in the everyday, lived and embodied geopolitics of this south-eastern Finnish city.  
My colleague Emily A. Fogarty and I recently submitted our chapter ‘Did you take the tour?’ An Analysis of the Spatial Politics of New Jersey’s Craft Beer Taprooms' for inclusion in the forthcoming Beer Places: The Micro-Geographies of Craft Beer, edited by Daina Cheyenne Harvey, Ellis Jones and Nate Chapman. Using a mixed-method interdisciplinary framework that draws on culturological, sociological, and geospatial approaches, we interrogate the micro-geographies of these breweries with the goal of providing a case study of spatial dynamics of the New Jersey taproom experience. Contextualised within a comparative framework informed by the authors’ frequent visits to New Jersey taprooms as well as those farther afield, this chapter is intended to provide an accessible examination of the ‘placemaking’ that has established the taproom as a unique space in the American drinking experience. We also aim to contextualise the New Jersey case with global trends in craft beer production and consumption. In terms of methods, analytical approaches, and data collection, this chapter is based on: 1) interviews conducted with owners, brewers, and staff at the aforementioned taprooms; 2) close readings of the different taproom experiences with a focus on the spatial ordering of the touring, drinking, and socialising, including an examination of the micro-geographies of tasting, e.g. curation styles, glassware, flight sizes/(non-)availability of pints, etc.; and 3) a geographical investigation of New Jersey brewscape clusters to reveal the micro-geographies of beer, culture, and place.
I recently finished a revised draft of my chapter "The Anxiety of Landscapes : Assessing and Critiquing the Autoethnographic Method in Popular Geopolitics" for Sandra Yao and Mark B. Salter's How to Do Popular Culture in International Relations. This chapter provides an explicit analysis of autoethnographic methodologies as a tool for analysing (popular) geopolitical content in cinematic landscapes. The focus is on a suite of geographical depictions of (post-)Soviet space in Western films produced from the late 1980s through the current decade. My categorisation of such landscapes is as follows: i) frozen wastelands; ii) urban warzones; iii) derelict megastructures; and iv) irradiated “neverwheres.” My argument is that repetitive and highly coded visions of such spaces function as a key element of maintaining American, British, and other Anglophone populations’ oppositional attitudes towards the Russian Federation and closely affiliated Eurasian states (Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, etc.). Taking a critical approach, this essay addresses the inherent challenges in selecting and analysing images for the purpose of interpreting their affectual power within the popular culture-world politics continuum. I problematise the dual role of the researcher as observer and subject, adapting theories from anthropology and other fields reliant on autoethnography. Drawing on recent methodology-centric works including Shapiro (2012), Dittmer (2014), Elwood and Hawkins (2017), and Bleiker (2015), the contribution of this chapter aims at formalising autoethnographic analysis of geopolitically-inflected, anxiety-causing landscapes in popular media (films, television series, comic books, and videogames) and codifying their value to one’s research project. Special attention is paid to the pitfalls associated with (necessarily) limited, ethnocentric, and privileged worldviews in the assessment of their power to influence everyday geopolitical understandings. 

Forthcoming Publications

When and where one can urinate is increasingly politicised around the globe. As an example of bio-political power, the provision, regulation and access to public toilets reflects larger structures in any given society. However, there is another side to micturition, that is the use of urine as a manifestation of bodily power over another/others. I recently submitted and article with my co-author Rhys Crilley (Open University, UK) that analyses the politics of the urinal through a close reading of the men’s toilet in the Lismore Pub in Partick, Scotland, thus bringing together these threads via the concept of everyday effigial resistance. In our interrogation of a politicised urinal that asks users to ‘piss’ on historical figures associated with the Highland Clearances, we aim to push International Relations to follow Enloe’s call for the study of ‘mundane practices… and the most intimate spaces’, by considering the most banal aspects of the human condition as part of its remit. Our case study serves as an explicit political intervention, one which through its geographic and geopolitical scales makes an argument for engaging with the mundane, vernacular and vulgar in everyday IR. Look for this essay in the recently published special issue of Millennium on Revolution and Resistance.
Taking in over $1 billion in ticket sales in less than a month, the Marvel Studios film Black Panther (2018) represents a watershed in popular geopolitical representation of Africa, reversing centuries of depictions of a "Dark Continent." The motion picture also makes a discursive intervention in the politics of African American-African relations through spatial representation of the U.S. (via Oakland, California) and Africa (via the fictional country of Wakanda). In my essay which was recently published by Political Geography, I explore these geopolitical constructs, in addition to a third imaginary geopolitical space, i.e. the "black world." Drawing on methodologies from popular geopolitics and critical IR theory, I aim to make a tripartite contribution to political geography. In terms of its normative input, this article demonstrates 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 the discourse by reframing and reinterpreting geopolitics via progressive pop-culture. From a theoretical standpoint, this treatment breaks new ground in how it synthesises cultural studies-based approaches with critical IR scholarship to more effectively examine the heuristics of mass-mediated artefacts on the everyday (im)possibilities of (geo)political action in a world defined by screened images. Lastly, this article serves as an empirical contribution with its analysis of the representations of Black Panther’s political geographies, focusing on how this artefact intersects with ongoing transnational political movements including Black Lives Matter.
My invited chapter “Of Gods and Men: Uses and Abuses of Neo-Paganism by Nationalist Movements in the ‘North’” is to be included in an forthcoming edited volume Northern Myths, Modern Identities: The Nationalisation of Northern Mythologies Since 1800 by Simon Halink (Brill). As a historical overview, this essay focuses on the link between nationalism and Neo-Paganism(s). My thesis is that nationalist elites have often made use of political, social, and cultural “toolkits” of Europe's myriad native religions to achieve political outcomes. I am particularly interested in how nationalist movements have mythologized pagan place in their respective struggles to establish or resist spatial legitimacy in various regions of northern, eastern and central Europe. This has involved the yoking together of three entities: mythologies, the land, and the people. With this essay, my aim is to interrogate and problematize these issues, focusing on how constructions of authentic faith inform the so-called invention of tradition.
My essay "Völkisch Vibes: Neofolk, Place, Politics, and Pan-European Nationalism" is now complete and under consideration for publication by Routledge in Nationalism and Popular Culture, edited by Tim Nieguth. Drawing on interviews with cultural producers and advocates of various forms of Pan-Europeanism, this chapter provides a tentative mapping of Neofolk—and its closely related peer, Folk Metal. The chapter frames this form of popular culture as a (trans)national phenomenon with important ramifications for the study of contemporary trends in anti-modernist "identity work" and its increasingly borderless nature by focusing on sonic, textual, and visual venerations of a "dead Europe." This chapter aims to make an original contribution to the literature of nationalism via its focus on a comparatively new musical genre (i.e. Neofolk) and its accompanying scene to complicate the notion that contemporary nationalism is necessarily "national" in form. I do this by interrogating the ethnic, cultural, and (geo)political linkages between soundscapes, religio-philosophical orientation, thematic/lyrical content, bands’ country-of-origin, (geo)graphical representations in videos and cover art, concert tour locations, and other factors. 
Based on my keynote address at “Pulling Together or Pulling Apart: Identity and Nationhood - Spain, Europe, the West,” hosted by the Department of Hispanic Studies, Trinity College Dublin (June 2015), I have contributed an essay entitled "Separatism in the New Millennium: Looking Back to See Forward" to an edited volume collecting the proceedings of the conference (under contract with Peter Lang). This chapter argues that ethnic separatism has been a driving force in European history for the past 100 years. From Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the current crisis in the Donbas region of Ukraine, minority nationalism—in both its violent and democratic forms—has shaped geopolitics across the continent. Providing a brief account of every national liberation struggle since 1914, this chapter critiques the “east-west” divide in the literature of European separatist movements, focusing on commonalities across western, central and eastern Europe.

Recent Publications

From Sir John Mandeville to Joseph Conrad, Africa’s blank spaces on the map have been filled with monstrous creatures that fuel the western imagination. As a consequence, this constant othering of the so-called "Dark Continent" has had a deleterious impact for African states and their citizenries. Cultural Geographies has just published my latest article, which looks at the continuation of this trend in popular culture via an empirical examination of the speculative fiction of the British novelist and performance artist B. Catling. Appearing in 2015, The Vorrh is the first of three novels set in a parallel Africa, specifically a former German colony that is home to remnants of the Garden of Eden. Focusing on the enchanted forest known as the Vorrh and the colony’s (fictional) capital, Essenwald, this essay employs methods drawn from geocriticism and popular geopolitics to interrogate Catling’s built-world. This is done with the aim of connecting structures of iteration in the representation of fictional ‘Africas’ to the west’s imperially-inflected geopolitical codes towards the actual physical and human geographies that constitute the world’s second-largest and most populous continent. 
My essay "Geopolitical Enemy #1? VVP, Anglophone ‘Popaganda’ and the Politics of Representation" has now been published in Russian Culture in the Era of Globalisation (eds. Sarah Hudspith and Vlad Strukov). In the chapter, I explore Anglophone popular culture’s response to the increasing tensions between the Russian Federation through parodies of Vladimir Putin. The volume will appear in the BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies series. My chapter interrogates Putin as a "celebrity" in world affairs, and specifically on the ways in which Putin has courted domestic and global attention through acts of geopolitical theatre. Through this mediatisation, I argue that a specific "RT" version of Putin has emerged, producing a sort of superhero, however, one who is viewed very differently abroad than at home. A close reading of several pop-culture artefacts of U.S./UK origin is provided in which each of these is unpacked of their geopolitical content with the aim of showing how the RT version of Putin has been inverted to craft a sort of global super-villain instead. The key argument here is that by representing Putin as a figure with superhuman characteristics, such derisive humour actually serves to increase the Russian president’s status in the West. The conclusion brings together these discourses of representation to demonstrate the increasing importance of the popular culture-world politics continuum in a world defined by globalised flows of media content and defined by the ineluctable shift towards the mediatisation of (geo)politics.
In collaboration with Joel Vessels (SUNY-Nassau), I am happy to report that our essay on the geopolitical interposition of Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) via the popular culture form of reality television has now been published by the journal Politics. Our article is a close reading of the DR series I am the Ambassador/Jeg er ambassadøren fra Amerika (2014-2016), "starring" the real U.S. ambassador to Denmark. We situate Ambassador within the evolving space of "new diplomacy" through an evaluation of how it imagines, popularizes, and expands everyday sites of diplomacy via mass-mediation. However, as we argue, the series – when viewed holistically – says more about the Danish state and its people than it does about the role of the U.S. ambassador, thus functioning as a tool of nation branding as much at home as abroad. The aim of this piece is to address the role of contemporary diplomacy via a television series, seeing this artefact as a fecund object of analysis that questions many of the myths surrounding the what we call the "diplomatic community."
My invited chapter "'Brand' New States: Post-Socialism, the Global Economy of Symbols, and the Challenges of National Differentiation" has appeared in The Future of (Post)Socialism, edited by Dijana Jelača, Danijela Lugarić, and John F. Bailyn (SUNY Press). This essay provides a critical examination nation branding across post-socialist Europe and Eurasia by expanding Nadia Kaneva’s notion of the “global economy of symbols.” The preliminary focus is on how and why the 30 states that once composed the Second World have all embraced country branding in some way since 1991. Following a brief overview of the practice of place branding a country and an interrogation of the relationship between propaganda and nation branding in post-totalitarian states, I provide a case study on several videos distributed by the web site Brand Estonia, specifically those featuring the Estonian “everyman” Jüri. I argue that the polysemous condition of “post-socialism” is one which only has meaning in a highly circumscribed context. I argue that we are perhaps better off adopting analytic lenses that are better suited for the complexities of statecraft in a global informational society where ideology, resistance, and domination converge via and contra the forces of neoliberalism.
I currently have two essays out that focus on the wildly popular television series The Bridge (2011-present). The first looks at the original series, as well as its two international adaptations, focusing on popular geopolitics. In "Geopolitical Television at the (B)order: Liminality, Global Politics, and World-Building in The Bridge" (in pre-print at Social & Cultural Geography), I examine significant departures in the various narratives and visual aesthetics based on the “on-the-ground” realities of space and place in the different countries where each version is set (i.e., Sweden-Denmark, U.S.-Mexico, and France-UK). The primary aim of this treatment is to assess the quotidian impact of geopolitical television in speaking truth to power through the affective use of visions of place, mediatized renderings of liminal zones, and nuanced treatments of cultural space. A secondary goal of this essay is to critically consider the anticipatory/predicating/predictive role of popular culture artefacts in world politics, specifically through the reification of “us and them” narratives connected to questions of international relations and socio-cultural difference. The second essay, "A Dark Imaginarium: The Bridge, Malmö, and the Making of a ‘Non-Existent’ Place," which appeared in Journal of Urban Cultural Studies in late 2017, focuses on the mediatized placemaking of contemporary Malmö, interrogating the series’ depictions of the Swedish city, Bridge-themed tourism, and a recent museum exhibition entitled “A Non-Existent Malmö” (hosted by the city’s Science and Maritime House Museum). Employing approaches drawn from place branding and the study of geographical imagination, I assess the importance of televisual representation in shaping the international image of the city.
Continuing my habit of mixing my favorite hobby (craft beer tasting) with my research agenda, Jack Holland (University of Leeds) and I collaborated on "The Ritual of Beer Consumption as Discursive Intervention: Effigy, Sensory Politics, and Resistance in Everyday IR." This article was published in Millennium: Journal of International Studies in early 2018. In this paper, we interrogate the geopolitical interventions of two craft brews, each of which impugns the image of a world leader from afar. In the first instance, we examine a BrewDog’s symbolic attack on Vladimir Putin’s homophobic agenda, while in the second case we assess the implications of Norwegian brewery 7 Fjell’s condemnation of (now-sitting) U.S. President Donald J. Trump. We argue that as affective effigial discursive interventions, these beers potentially offer resonant if limited moments of resistance within the broader discursive battlefield of world politics. The article therefore makes a linked threefold contribution: (i) normatively contesting mainstream IR’s exclusion of popular culture artefacts; (ii) theorising beer’s consumption as a significant potentially affective effigial act of quotidian resistance; and (iii) analysing the empirical contestation of two dominant geopolitical discourses. Our paper also led to an invitation to write the "Beer" tile (i.e., entry) for the International Political Economy of Everyday Life (I-PEEL) portal.
Daniel Drezner recently stated: "We live in a Golden Age of international relations programming on television." Responding to this notion, my article "Small Screen IR: A Tentative Typology of Geopolitical Television," which will soon appear in Geopolitics, explores the ways in which geopolitical television dramas have flourished in the new millennium. In the paper (which is based on my presentation at the 9th annual Popular Culture and World Politics conference), I discuss the emergence of so-called geopolitical TV, examining on how technological advances and social transformations have created conditions for increasingly sophisticated offerings that interrogate a wide variety of issues in world politics. I address the shift towards more intellectually demanding fare since 2001 before moving on to more recent examples of International Relations TV. In its empirical and structural contributions, this article provides a tentative taxonomy of the genre, classifying geopolitical television series into five distinct groups with a representative empirical case study for each: 1) exotic/irrealist (Berlin Station); 2) parliamentary/domestic (Borgen); 3) procedural/localised (The Bridge); 4) historical/revisionist (Deutschland 83); and 5) speculative/fantastical (Occupied). In its normative and theoretical contributions, this article seeks to advance the study of small screen geopolitical interventions, arguing that geopolitical television series function both as a mirror/reflection of IR and an imaginative/predictive force in contemporary world politics.
The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics recently published my article "The Identity Politics of Elfquest at 40: Moving beyond Race, Class and Gender?" which explores Wendy and Richard Pinis’ independent comic series Elfquest (1978-present), focusing on the identity triad of race, class, and gender. In my analysis of EQ as a popular culture-based political intervention, I make a three-fold contribution to the literature of popular geopolitics. First, in a normative contribution challenging the male-dominated of 1970s-era comics, I situate EQ as subversive medium that imagined a new world ordered by the progressive values of the "1968 generation." Second, via a theoretical contribution, I present EQ fandom as a form of transformative political engagement, wherein the reader/seer maps their own situatedness in the U.S.’s changing socio-political milieu. And, third, in an empirical contribution, I provide a critical analysis of the original series, interrogating Elfquest’s engagement with identity politics through a close reading of the visuals and text of the "Original Quest" (Issues #1-21, 1978-1984), fan feedback (letters to the editor), and interviews with the creators (including my own conducted in 2017).  In the conclusion, I reflect on EQ’s transition to the post-identity politics of the contemporary era as the series concludes its fourth decade in publication.
Stemming from our collaboration on an invited speaker series on popular geopolitics at the University of Leeds in Fall 2014 and a joint paper presentation at the conference “Popular Geopolitics in Russia and Post-Soviet Eastern Europe” at University College London (February 20, 2015), Vlad Strukov and I recently published an essay entitled “The Popular Geopolitics Feedback Loop: Thinking beyond the ‘Russia versus the West’ Paradigm" in a special issue of Europe-Asia Studies, edited by Joanna Szostek in 2017. The essay considers the shifting nature of popular culture and world politics, examining the evolving relationship between the Russian Federation, Europe, and the United States. Through the application of Appadurai’s notion of mediascapes, we identify the existence of a powerful two-way flow of ideas, ideologies, and imaginaries that feed off of popular cultural production. Case studies include the films of Timur Bekmambetov, Masiania, a recent transmedial adaptation of The Master and Margarita, and the popular video game Metro 2033.
My chapter for Lisa Fletcher's Popular Fiction and Spatiality: Reading Genre Settings (Palgrave Macmillan) entitled "Mapping Monstrosity: Metaphorical Geographies in China Miéville’s Bas-Lag Trilogy" has now been published. This essay interrogates radical geographies of the fictional world depicted in Perdido Street Station (2000), The Scar (2002), and Iron Council (2004). Combining the steampunk genre with Lovecraftian fantasy and a left-wing sensibility, Miéville’s Bas-Lag presents the reader with an expansive yet meticulously detailed imaginary that critiques high imperialism, industrialization, capitalism, and racism. I argue that the Bas-Lag world should be understood as a metaphorical critique of imperio-capitalist, core-periphery geopolitics, replete with (failed) experiments in social justice and racial/gender equality (namely, the thalassic pirate-state Armada and the itinerant train-state Iron Council).
My invited essay for a volume entitled The Silence of the Lambs: Critical Essays on a Cannibal, Clarice, and Nice Chianti, edited by Cynthia Miller, which commemorates the 25th anniversary of the film's premiere, is currently in press with Rowman & Littlefield and will appear later in 2016. This brief chapter contextualizes Jonathan Demme's work in the large-scale historical transition from the Cold War (1947-1989) to a neoliberal new world order dominated by the United States (1991-present). Silence of the Lambs represents a seminal text which can be seen to have both charted and critiqued the U.S.’s new-found role as the one and only superpower, and its emergence as the new epicenter of Western Civilization freed of any restrictions placed upon it by the global contest with its Cold War adversary, the USSR. The chapter employs Francis Fukuyama’s essay “The End of History?” (1989) to theoretically frame the purported end of sociocultural evolution and the world-wide immuring of the “final form” of human government: western-style liberal democracy. My contention is that the cinematic representation of two halves of the American “new man” (the male serial killer Jame Gumb and the female FBI agent Clarice Starling)—when made whole—eclipse the effete Old World gentleman (Lecter), thus instantiating the end of the historical dialectic, wherein a victorious America is left standing at the threshold of an unchanging future history.
My chapter on the "monstrous othering" of the American Confederacy in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, which explores both the novel (2010) and the film (2012), recently appeared in The Horrors of War: The Living, the Undead, and the Battlefield, edited by Cindy Miller and Bow Van Riper (Rowman & Littlefield). Through the spatial distancing of the Deep South and the social construction of the Rebels as willing (the elites) and witless (the masses) allies of iniquitous, “Old World” vampires bent on enslaving the entirety of the Americas, I contend that Grahame-Smith’s revisionist narrative and Timur Bekmambetov's visual representation of Southron bloodsuckers reiterates and extends key stereotypes about the American South, while simultaneously injecting the (radical) idea of demonic assistance to the "blood-thirsty graybacks."
My essay "Imperial Imaginaries: Using Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics" is now published in an edited collection by E-International Relations entitled World Politics and Popular Culture: Theories, Methods, Pedagogies, edited by Federica Caso and Caitlin Hamilton. This short piece focuses on the pedagogical value of science fiction films, television series, and novels as tools for engaging undergraduates in discussions of imperial geopolitics. Historically oriented, I analyze the linked relationship between sf and imperialism and argue that by reading with, across, and against key sf texts, students can better understand the vagaries of imperial power, as well as critically assess important developments in contemporary international relations. This essay discussed the merits of a variety of texts, including Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Dune, Avatar, and the Bas-Lag novels of China Miéville.
My chapter entitled "Media and Terrorism" was recently published in The Routledge History of Terrorism, edited by Randall D. Law. Beginning with the introduction of the steam-powered rotary printing press in the mid-19th century and concluding with the current era of globally-linked networks of information and communications technologies, my chapter presents a tripartite analysis of the mediatization of terrorism, focusing on major social and cultural shifts brought about by media coverage of political violence. In the initial section, I explore the role of mass media as a propaganda tool for terrorists. In the second part of the essay, the focus is on governmental responses to mediatized terror. In the final segment, I look at the mediation of actual and imagined acts of terror as a source of entertainment, interrogating the role of popular culture in shaping attitudes towards terrorism and counterterrorism.
My entries in Sage Publications' Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives (2015), edited by Scott C. Martin and J. Geoffrey Golson, have now been published. These include geographic entries on Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, and The Netherlands. Each of these essays covers the dominant drinking culture, most popular beverages, the importance of alcohol to the national economy, the production and regulation of spirits, and social issues associated with alcoholism. Additionally, I penned the entries on "mead" and the Czech beer and brewery Budvar. This project is one which I have long conducted research (though in an informal capacity), and given my unquenchable enthusiasm for beer, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to connect this part of my life with my academic pursuits.

Past Publications

"The Interview" and the Popular Culture-World Politics Continuum in E-International Relations (December 2014)

Abstract: This article attempts to situate The Interview (dir. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, 2014) in what Kyle Grayson, Matt Davies, and Simon Philpott (2009) have labelled “the popular culture-world politics continuum” by looking back at similar controversies over the past decade, while also elucidating key elements of the protean nature of global affairs that will make such phenomena more common over the coming decades. I do so by situating the furor over the motion picture in relation to other recent Hollywood fare that have angered foreign governments, notably Borat (Kazakhstan), 300 (Iran), and the remake of Red Dawn (China). My piece also includes a fairly comprehensive synopsis of the crisis, including a discussion of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama's comments on the situation at his year-end press conference. While certainly not the first Hollywood production to anger a foreign government, The Interview arguably represents the most controversial piece of popular culture to impact world politics in some time.
Primetime Paganism: Popular Cultural Representations of Europhilic Polytheism in Game of Thrones and Vikings in Correspondences: Online Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism (November 2014)

Abstract: This article provides a critical examination of the politico-religious content of the highly successful television series Game of Thrones and Vikings. By comparing and contrasting two very different representations of ethnically-marked “European” polytheism, I seek to uncover underlying trends in contemporary attitudes towards reconstructed “native faith” among peoples of European origin, particularly in contrast to “imported” monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). This article makes several tentative claims about the protean nature of religious identity in the context of popular culture. First, that traditional filmic treatments of pagans qua villains is shifting, with contemporary popular culture allowing for more nuanced framing of Western forms of polytheism. Secondly, that such popular-culture representations of paganism have direct impact on certain contemporary Pagans’ personal spiritual paths by promoting and influencing the “invention of tradition” among a population which manifests non-traditional religious identities.
Mediating New Europe-Asia: Branding the Post-Socialist World via the Internet in New Media in New Europe-Asia, ed. Jeremy Morris, Natalya Rulyova, Vlad Strukov (Routledge, 2014)

Abstract: This chapter explores the multivalent effects of the Internet as a tool of "nation branding" in post-socialist Europe and Eurasia. Three areas are explored: state-based efforts at influencing national image abroad via new media; the use of the Internet by non-state actors to produce alternative narratives of nations; and web-based cultural production (parody, satire, etc.) which emanates from outside the region but impacts international perceptions of the various states of the former Second World. By triangulating these contemporary efforts at constructing and redefining national imaginaries (state, internal non-state, external non-state), my aim is to synthesize the effects of these contentious, though often mutually reinforcing, flows of politicized information and images to arrive at a holistic assessment of the role of new media in "branding" new Europe-Asia.
The Geopolitics of Russophonia: The Problems and Prospects of Post-Soviet “Global Russian” in Globality Studies Journal (July 2014)

Abstract: Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian language has flagged in usage across much of the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This dramatic contraction belies the overall health of Russian as a global idiom, particularly as the language is expanding in a number of new locales, including Israel and Cyprus, while continuing to serve as an important lingua franca in a number of post-Soviet countries and farther afield. Combining geolinguistics and geopolitics, this essay explores the historical development and contemporary status of the Russian language in the global era, and seeks to locate the nebulous space of Russophonia, that is, the realm—territorial, virtual, and otherwise—of the some 275 million Russian-speakers worldwide.

Additionally, I penned entries on GSJ's EuroPoint blog for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Zombies in the Colonies: Imperialism and Contestation of Ethno-Political Space in Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide in Monstrous Geographies: Places and Spaces of the Monstrous, ed. Sarah Montin and Evelyn Tsitas (Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2013)

Abstract: All zombie yarns are about geography. Traditionally, this has meant the securitization of territory against marauding hordes of flesh-eating undead. From George Romero’s iconic Night of the Living Dead (1968) to AMC's current hit television series The Walking Dead (2010-present), the goal of the living has been to make space that is impervious to zombies. However, in this chapter, I will explore another side of the zombie-geography conjugate. Drawing on analytical tools from the field of popular geopolitics, this essay explores the construction of monstrous geographies of imperialism as a critique of the militaristic advance of Western Civilization. In the satirical self-help tutorial The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead (2003) and the accompanying graphic novel The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks (2009), Max Brooks posits zombies as defenders of territory against the tender mercies of European colonialists. In Brooks’ geographical imagination, nearly every "recorded" instance of zombiism involves a zone of contested political and/or ethnic space. Particularly relevant examples involve "first contact" narratives in colonial settings, from Roman Britannia to German Southwest Africa. In other reports, Brooks focuses on inter-ethnic tensions over "living space" in world history, weaving Jewish pogroms, interracial violence, and indigenous rights movements into his work. By positioning zombies as carnivorous defenders of the "land" against colonial avarice, Brooks' ghouls function as subaltern avengers, eating the flesh of white conquerors and delaying (though not ultimately denying) the march of imperialism across the globe. In doing so, he subtly rewrites our historical narrative of the coming of globalization.
Pagan Places: Towards a Religiogeography of Neopaganism in Progress in Human Geography (November 2013)

Abstract: Focused on religiogeographic practices in contemporary western paganism (neopaganism), this paper aims to fill a gap in the existing literature through a critical assessment of how neopagans imagine, delimitate, and interact with space, place, and territory. Employing a novel categorization of religious space along four overlapping geographies (numinous, poetic, social, and political), this essay addresses the need for geographers to produce publicly relevant studies that analyze religiously rooted ideologies and define cultural interpretations of places, terrains, and landscapes. Furthermore, I put forth a tentative research agenda for subsequent studies of how neopagans conceive of and interact with real and imagined geographies.
The Short Life and Slow Death of Captain Euro Popular Geopolitics and the Pitfalls of the Generic European Superhero, Aether: The Journal of Media Geography
(December 2012)

Abstract: Hoping to inculcate a sense of Europeanness among Anglophone youth in advance of the introduction of a common currency and the deepening of European integration, Twelve Stars Communications launched the Captain Euro project as part of its larger strategy of branding the European Union. This article is a study of identity and geopolitical imagination in that short-lived series of Internet-based comics, which appeared in the late 1990s. While the comic ultimately floundered, Captain Euro represents a trenchant example of popular geopolitical representation and the attempted use of costumed superheroes to create national narratives that are attractive to and instruct youthful readers. The forms of geopolitical meaning explored herein include the construction of a common identity based on Celtic and pagan pre-history, the temporal othering of non-territorial European minorities and the spatial othering of Turkey, and the visual privileging of key spaces associated with a pan-European ideal. This is accomplished through analysis of the visual and textual content of Captain Euro and its critical reception, as well as interviews conducted with series creator Nicholas De Santis.
Hungry Lands: Conquest, Cannibalism, and the Wendigo Spirit in Undead in the West: Vampires, Zombies, Mummies and Ghosts on the Cinematic Frontier, ed. Cynthia Miller and Bowdoin Van Riper (Scarecrow Press, 2012)

Abstract: This essay explores the indigenous myth of the wendigo spirit as depicted in Antonia Bird’s horror film Ravenous (1999), a blackly comedic exploration of the American colonization of mid-nineteenth century California. Bringing together analysis informed by the disciplines of popular geopolitics and cultural anthropology, I interrogate the use of the wendigo spirit as a threat not to the Native American populations which have historically been its victims, but as an agent of vengeance upon European interlopers as they conquer and transform the sacred landscapes of “Native” America. Following a brief synopsis of Ravenous, I explore the wendigo psychosis in the context of Western anthropology and myth-making associated with subaltern peoples, drawing links to other “indigenous” horrors such as vampirism and zombieism. I then explore the film’s geopolitical representations, including the use of forbidding landscapes, representations of the Native American “other,” and various constructions of “Americanism” associated with bravery, masculinity, and conquest. I also interrogate the notions of “dead” and “undead” that underpin the film’s characters, as they ultimately complicate Bird’s otherwise straightforward critique of colonization.
Undead Spaces: Fear, Globalisation, and the Popular Geopolitics of Zombiism in Geopolitics (February 2012)

In recent years, zombies have enjoyed a dramatic renaissance in various forms of popular culture. This essay argues that the current obsession with the walking dead, and particularly the looming threat of human-zombie conflicts, is a reflection of the dangers of invasive alterity associated with uncontrolled spaces in a globalised world. This shift is especially prevalent in the United States following 9/11, as zombies have become phantasmal stand-ins for Islamist terrorists, illegal immigrants, carriers of foreign contagions, and other "dangerous" border crossers. Through three case studies which examine zombie "outbreaks" on the local, national, and global levels, respectively, I discuss the importance of borders and geopolitical spaces in recent fictional depictions of human– zombie conflicts. As metaphors for illicit globalisation, zombies have emerged as a key pop-culture referent of the porous nature of socio-cultural, political, and physical boundaries in a global age defined by an emotional geopolitics of fear.
Brand Interrupted: The Impact of Alternative Narrators on Nation Branding in the Former Second World in Branding Post-Communist Nations: Marketizing National Identities in the New Europe, ed. Nadia Kaneva (Routledge, 2011)

Abstract: This chapter explores the role of popular media in shaping national brands among the post-Communist states of Europe and Eurasia, as well as attempts to by national governments and their allies to contest this "anti-branding." Through an analysis of various media including films, books, and Internet personae, "Brand Interrupted" interrogates preexisting prejudices against the "Other" Europe, while explaining how Cold War frames continue to influence the current "consumption" of the band of nations that stretch from the Oder River to the Sea of Okhotsk.
WikiLeaks are Not Terrorists — A Critical Assessment of the “Hacktivist” Challenge to the Diplomatic System in Globality Studies Journal (June 2011)

Abstract: In an effort to explore the changing nature of international relations in the era of deterritorialized information and communication technology, this essay interrogates the responses of diplomats and other political elites to the “Cablegate” scandal, which resulted from WikiLeaks release of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables in late 2010. Following a brief historical background on the necessity of subterfuge in international diplomacy, I explore the demonization of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, as “high tech terrorists” bent on attacking the United States and its allies. Using critical international relations theory, I argue that this response was highly predictable, despite the minimal damage done to Washington’s capacity to conduct its foreign policy in either the short or longer term.
A Forgotten Core? Mapping the Globality of Central Asia in Globality Studies Journal (April 2010)

Abstract: The article explores Central Asia as a global region in an attempt to explain its dramatic reversal of fortune from a world core to a forgotten cul-de-sac to its current, partially global status. It briefly recounts Central Asia’s "spatially central" situation during the Silk Road centuries, the Islamic Golden Age, and the Mongol Empire, before moving to an investigation of the region’s functional "disappearance" in world affairs during the Early Modern Period. Using geopolitical and cartographic analysis of Central Asia as an increasingly relevant world region, the article then focuses on the Russo-British "Great Game," followed by an analysis of the region’s “cocooned globality” during the Soviet era. Lastly, the article analyzes the "opening" of Central Asia after 1991 and how the events of 11 September 2001 and the region’s petro-wealth have put it "back on the map" and provided the region with a measurable level of globality.
Wiring the Second World: The Geopolitics of Information and Communications Technology in Post-Totalitarian Eurasia in Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media (Spring 2009)

Abstract: Control of information is the first prerequisite of any totalitarian society; while in authoritarian systems, it is simply a perquisite afforded the state. During the past two decades, the residents of the Second World—the vast geopolitical bloc that stretched from Poznań to Pyongyang and Noril’sk to Namangan—have experienced both totalitarian and authoritarian control of information. Some have even been lucky enough to taste a free flow of data, images, music, and ideas via the rapidly evolving suite of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and new media. In this essay, I explore the history of "wiring" the Second World, as well as current trends in ICT deployment, the cultural penetration of new media, and the impact of both on the larger political environment in post-totalitarian Eurasia.
New Media, New Russians, New Abroad: The Evolution of Minority Russian Identity in Cyberspace in The Post-Soviet Russian Media: Conflicting Signals, ed. Birgit Beumers, Stephen Hutchings and Natalya Rulyova (Routledge, 2008)

Abstract: This chapter explores the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) and new media (especially the Internet) in providing social, economic and political moorings for minority Russians in the "new abroad." My secondary aim is to compare and contrast the identity trajectories of this emergent diaspora with their ethnic brethren in the Russian Federation. The findings presented therein are drawn from the my field research in Kazakhstan, Latvia and Estonia, and through the medium of cyberspace during the 2002–05 timeframe. My analysis is constructed around the relatively simultaneous and often interlinked emergence of three phenomena: (1) new media – the various communication, representational and entertainment platforms which utilise the paradigm of digitisation; (2) new Russians – former "Soviets" whose identities were politicised based on their ethno-linguistic characteristics; and (3) the new abroad – the geopolitical space comprising the former Soviet republics (except Russia).
The Ummah as Nation: A Reappraisal in the Wake of the "Cartoons Affair" in Nations and Nationalism (April 2008)

Abstract: In the wake of the 2006 "Cartoons Affair" which saw international protests by Muslims against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, it is clear that identity based on membership in the Islamic ummah goes far beyond simple religious affiliation. This essay presents a novel argument for treating the ummah (the transnational community of Muslim believers) as a nation. I begin with a theoretical treatment of the ummah as nation which employs historic and current interpretations of what constitutes nationhood. I then turn to the current state of the ummah; my findings present a potent nexus of information and communications technology (ICT), emergent elites, and Muslim migration to the West that has facilitated a hitherto impossible reification of the ummah. I also discuss how globalisation, Western media practices, and the nature of European society allow "ummahist" elites to marginalise other voices in the transnational Muslim community. Based on the global events surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy of 2005–06, I conclude that there is need to recognise ummah-based identity as more than just a profession of faith – it represents a new form of postnational, political identity which is as profound as any extant nationalism.
Buying into Brand Borat: Kazakhstan’s Cautious Embrace of Its Unwanted "Son" in Slavic Review (Spring 2008)

Abstract: This article explores the Kazakhstani government’s use of the Borat controversy as a tool for nation branding. After a brief introduction to Borat, I detail the dynamic official and "semi-official" positions on Baron Cohen’s satire, which culminated in a tentative embrace of the parody immediately after the international premiere of Borat. Using the analytical tool of nation branding, I discuss the realpolitik required of political elites to deal with mass-mediated threats to national image in the era of ubiquitous, deterritorialized media products (for example, MTV and Da Ali G Show) and platforms (YouTube, MySpace). My analysis draws on my field research on the subject of national identity conducted in Kazakhstan in 2002 and interviews with Kazakhstan’s ambassadorial staff in the wake of Borat. I also rely on official publications of the Kazakhstan Embassy, public pronouncements made by other government bureaus and members of the Kazakhstani political establishment, and interviews with Kazakhstani-Americans and American parents of Kazakhstani adoptees.
A Conjurer’s Game: Vladimir Putin and the Politics of Presidential Prestidigitation in Playing Politics with Terrorism: A User’s Guide, ed. George Kassimeris (Hurst (UK); Columbia University Press (US), 2007)

Abstract: This essay explores the political maneouverings of the Putin administration in the immediate aftermath of three terrorist incidents: the 9/11 attacks (2001), the Nord-Ost theatre siege (2002), and the Beslan hostage crisis (2004). Each of these events precipitated rapid and drastic changes in Russian policies. In each case, the reforms that followed each attack served to solidify Putin’s grip on power and weaken his critics inside and outside of Russia. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Putin repositioned Russian foreign policy in such a way as to provide legitimacy to his policies in Chechnya and inure the West to his neo-authoritarian agenda. After the Nord-Ost debacle, he made provocative alterations to the country’s military doctrine intended to make Russia a "strong state" once again. Putin also took the opportunity to rein in his country’s media for their "irresponsible coverage" of the incident, effectively neutralising the press. This, in turn, paved the way for future reforms which might have been thoroughly scrutinised—and even challenged—in a freer media environment. Most dramatically, Putin utilised the grief and insecurity felt by the Russian people in the aftermath of Beslan to procure a sweeping reform of his country’s federal system—changes that clearly contravened the constitution of the Russian Federation and eviscerated lingering opposition to presidential power. My thesis is that Putin, a master of political sleight-of-hand, used each terrorist attack as a tool of misdirection. Once inveigled, Putin’s various audiences quietly capitulated to his agenda for remaking Russian politics—both on the international and domestic levels.
Transnational Reproduction and its Discontents: The Politics of Intercountry Adoption in a Global Society in Journal of Global Change and Governance (Winter 2007)

Driven by advances in communication, the ease of international travel, and the globalized nature of society, adoption—a phenomenon once confined to the immediate community—is no longer limited by distance, communal ties, ethnicity or culture. Due to infertility brought on by delayed marriage, difficulties associated with domestic adoptions, and other factors, international adoption is increasingly seen as a desirable option for childless couples and prospective single parents in industrialized Western countries. Other countries—especially those which have seen their economic, social, and health care systems wracked by the transition from communism to free-market capitalism—have attempted to lessen the burden on their orphanage systems by allowing foreigners to adopt abandoned children under specific conditions. One might expect that these new, rather symbiotic, relationships would be universally seen as promoting the common good and serving the best interests of the children involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. International adoption has instead emerged as a divisive issue affecting domestic politics and foreign policy from India to Guatemala. This article explores the highly politicized nature of transnational reproduction and those “discontents” who argue against the institution (generally) and its impact on their societies (specifically). I explore the failure of global governance to avert overt politicization, nationalist confrontation, and hegemonic manipulation with regards to international adoption. Special focus will be paid to the US-EU conflict over international adoption which manifested during Romania’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Additionally, I discuss the nationalist discourse surrounding the problem of orphans in post-communist states (specifically Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan) and how such sentiments are linked to anti-globalization populism and “population politics” in transitioning societies. Lastly, I explore how recent changes in adoption-linked global migratory flows have debunked the notion of international adoption as a strictly “North-South” issue.


Popular Geopolitics: Plotting an Evolving Interdiscipline. Routledge (2018).

This book brings together scholars from across a variety of academic disciplines to assess the current state of the subfield of popular geopolitics. It provides an archaeology of field, maps the flows of various frameworks of analysis into (and out of) popular geopolitics, and charts a course forward for the discipline. It explores the real-world implications of popular culture, with a particular focus on an evolving interdisciplinary nature of popular geopolitics with interrelated disciplines including media, cultural and gender studies.

Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm. Routledge (2017).

"An original and important
contribution to the study of visual culture and its implications on nationalism, geopolitics, and
the framing of broader geographical imaginations...[and] an insightful overview of the emergent histories of the spaces and people of the post-Soviet Union" ~ Social & Cultural Geography

Ethnopolitics in Cyberspace: The Internet, Minority Nationalism, and the Web of Identity. Lexington Books (2010).

"A welcome contribution [that] deserves the attention of a wide public, as it is a worthwhile contribution to this relatively new field." ~ Ethnic and Racial Studies
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation, co-authored with Vlad Strukov. Scarecrow Press (2010).

"The Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation fills a gap in the truest sense of the word." ~ Reference Reviews

The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody, and the Battle over Borat. Lexington Books (2008).

"A thoroughly detailed exploration of Cohen's explosive comedy. A smart read deserving of a lot of 'respek.'" ~ Michael Musto

Reviews of Scholarship

"Review of Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm," Social & Cultural Geography (July 2017)

"Review of Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm," Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media [Russian language] (June 2017)

"Review of Ethnopolitics in Cyberspace," Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (October 2012)

"Review of Ethnopolitics in Cyberspace," Ethnic and Racial Studies (June 2012)

"Review of The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen," Slavic Review (Summer 2011)

"Review of Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation," The Russian Review (April 2011)

"Review of Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation," CHOICE (February 2011)

"Borat as Battleground," Globality Studies Journal (14 December 2009)

"Much Ado about Borat," Journal of Global Change and Governance (Summer 2009)

"Review of The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody and the Battle over Borat," Southwest Journal of Cultures (12 February 2009)

"Cultural Learnings of Kazakhstan," Wilson Quarterly (Summer 2008)