Robert A Saunders, PhD

Professor of Geopolitics and International Relations

The State University of New York (SUNY)

Robert A. Saunders is a leading scholar of popular geopolitics, as well as an internationally-recognized researcher in the field of nation branding. His geographic areas of focus include Russia, Central Asia, and Nordic Europe. His research explores the impact of popular culture and mass media on geopolitics, nationalism, and religious identity. His articles have appeared in Millennium, Geopolitics, Political Geography, Politics, Social & Cultural Geography, Progress in Human Geography, Nations and Nationalism, Slavic Review and Europe-Asia Studies, as well as other journals. A Professor in the Department of History, Politics, and Geography at Farmingdale State College - SUNY, Saunders teaches courses on International Relations and human geography. In addition to his role as an instructor, he also serves as the campus liaison to the United Nations. Professor Saunders holds a Ph.D. in Global Affairs from Rutgers University and degrees in History from Stony Brook University  and the University of Florida.

Based on his extensive work on Kazakhstan's feud with the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Harper's labeled him the 'world's leading Boratologist'. His 2008 book on the subject is entitled The Many Faces of Sacha Baron Cohen: Politics, Parody, and the Battle over Borat. Building on this research, Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm (Routledge, 2017) explores the tension between Western pop-culture representations of the fifteen former Soviet republics and their own attempts at image management. His co-edited volume Popular Geopolitics: Plotting an Evolving Interdiscipline (Routledge, 2018) reflects on and expands the scope of this research agenda. Professor Saunders recently completed a monograph entitled Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir  with Routledge's Popular Culture and World Politics series (due out in winter 2020-2021). His next book, Landscape and Television - Bodies, Geopolitics, and Ecologies (co-authored with Irina Souch and Anne Marit Waade), is under contract with Palgrave.

In 2016, Professor Saunders was awarded the prestigious Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, a system-wide accolade for sustained scholarship presented by the State University of New York. He has held visiting researcher positions at the University of Leeds (School of Modern Languages and Cultures' Leeds Russian Centre), Aarhus University (School of Communication and Culture - Media Studies), and Malmö University (Institute for Urban Research - IUR). He is an Honorary Fellow of the Leeds Russian Centre; additionally, he is an Affiliate Partner of the Centre for Transnational Media Research at Aarhus University.

In addition to his academic activities, Professor Saunders also works as an independent brand consultant, assisting clients in place- and nation-branding campaigns, as well providing strategic thinking in the areas of sustainability, biosecurity, and the effective use of provenance attributes to establish corporate quiddity in the rapidly-evolving global marketplace.

Recent Publications

'“Radio Free Sweden”: Satire, National Identity, and the Un-PC (Geo)Politics of Jonatan Spang', (with Hanne Bruun), Global Society, pre-print available online

'Landscape, Geopolitics, and National Identity in the Norwegian Thrillers Occupied and Nobel', Nordicom Review,  41 (s1), 2020, pp.  63–83

'Geopolitical Television Drama Within and Beyond the Nordic Region' (with Pei-Sze Chow & Anne Marit Waade), Nordicom Review, 41 (s1), 2020, pp.  11-27

'Televisual Diplomacy: I am the Ambassador and Danish Nation Branding at Home and Abroad' (with Joel Vessels), Politics, 39(4), 2019, pp. 430-447

'Geopolitical Television at the (B)order: Liminality, Global Politics, and World-Building in The Bridge', Social & Cultural Geography, 20(7), 2019, pp. 981-1003

'Small Screen IR: A Tentative Typology of Geopolitical Television', Geopolitics, 24(3), 2019, pp. 691-727