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, Ukraine, the post-socialist states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and Nordic Europe. His research explores the impact of popular culture and mass media on geopolitics, nationalism, and religious identity, as well as the relationship between world politics and environmental issues. His articles have appeared in Millennium, Geopolitics, Political Geography, Politics, Social & Cultural Geography, cultural geographies, 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, he 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 scholarly thrust explores representations of the Anthropocene Epoch in popular culture, and how such visualisations influence our (geo)political codes, practices, and visions at the planetary level.

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 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-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

'A See Change? The Problematic (Visual) Politics of Screening the Anthropocene', Critical Studies in Television, pre-print available online.

'Black + Brown ≠ Green: The Absent Presence of the Anthropocene in Wakanda Forever,' Political Geography, pre-print available online.

'Editorial: (Em)placing the Popular in Cultural Geography', with Alex Hastie, Social & Cultural Geography, 25(5), 2024: 685-697.

'Ukraine at War: Reflections on Popular Culture as a Geopolitical Battlespace', Czech Journal of International Relations, 59(1), 2024, pp. 23-57.

'Review Essay: Imagination, Geopolitics, and the Anthropocene', Geopolitics29(3), 2024, pp. 1072-1076.