Robert A Saunders, PhD

Distinguished 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 Distinguished Professor in the Department of History, Politics, and Geography at Farmingdale State College - SUNY, Saunders teaches courses on International Relations and cultural geography. 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' most recent monograph is Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir: What Television Series Tell Us About World Politics, which was published by Routledge's Popular Culture and World Politics series in 2021. His current research agenda explores representations of the Anthropocene Epoch in popular culture, and how such visualisations influence our (geo)political cultures at the planetary level. He is currently collaborating with Anne Marit Waade (Aarhus University) and Irina Souch (University of Amsterdam) on a special issue of Critical Studies in Television on screening landscapes in times of climate crises, as well as another special issue (co-edited with Alex Hastie of Coventry University) entitled '(Em)placing the Popular in Cultural Geography' for Social & Cultural Geography.

In 2016, Professor Saunders received the prestigious SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, a system-wide accolade for sustained scholarship . In 2023, he became the first member of the Farmingdale faculty to be awarded the title of Distinguished Professor by  the SUNY Board of Trustees. This rank is only conferred upon faculty who have achieved international prominence and a distinguished reputation within the individual's chosen field via significant contributions to research and scholarship.  Professor Saunders has held visiting researcher positions at the University of Leeds , Aarhus University , and Malmö University. He is currently a member of the editorial board of Academic Quarter/Akademisk kvarter and 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 as 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

'Ukraine at War: Reflections on Popular Culture as a Geopolitical Battlespace', Czech Journal of International Relations, pre-print available online.

'(Em)placing the Popular in Cultural Geography', Social & Cultural Geography, with Alex Hastie, pre-print available online.

'Genealogical Journeys, Geographical Imagination, and (Popular) Geopolitics in Who Do You Think You Are?'
Social & Cultural Geography, pre-print available online.

'Screening Arctic Landscapes in Nordic Television Drama: Anthropocenic Imaginaries, Ecological Crises,
National Identities', with Anne Marit Waade & Irina Souch, in Disturbed Ecologies: Photography, Geopolitics, and the Northern Landscape in the Era of Environmental Crisis, eds. D. White, J. Peck, & C. Goldie (Columbia University Press, 2023), pp. 257-281.

'Ghostbusting in the Late Anthropocene: The 1980s, (Un)Conscious Climate Culture, and Our Holocene Afterlives', Academic Quarter, 25, 2022, pp. 64-78.

'Review Essay: Imagination, Geopolitics, and the Anthropocene', Geopolitics, pre-print available online.