Source: Drago Prvulovic/Øresundsbro Konsortie

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 Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir , which will be published in Routledge’s Popular Culture and World Politics series in January 2021. 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 visiting researcher position at Malmö University, 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, and several forthcoming book chapters on crime drama, neoliberalism, and transborder issues (including one on adapting Nordic noir in the center of global neoliberalism, i.e. London, via the series Marcella). Additionally, I contributed two articles to a special issue of Nordicom Review on geopolitics and Nordic noir (which I  also co-edited); in the first, I examine the depiction of (geo)political landscapes in the Norwegian series Occupied and Nobel, while in the second Pei-Sze Chow, Anne Marit Waade, and I interrogate the changing nature of Nordic noir when transplanted outside the region (specifically The Bridge's adaptation in Malaysia-Singapore). I also have a recently-published article in Global Society (co-authored with Hanne Bruun) 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 between Danes and Swedes, specifically those related to gender, ethnicity, migration, and free speech. Tangentially, this research also informs my co-authored chapter 'Geysers, Game of Thrones, and Geopolitics: Iceland as a Zone of Strategic Tourism' (with Simon Halink), which will appear in The Geopolitics of Tourism: Assemblages of Power, Mobility and the State, eds. Matilde Cordoba Azcarate, Mary Mostafanezhad and Roger Norum (University of Arizona Press).

Latvia’s Labietis: Modern Craft Brewing Across the Pagan-Christian Threshold

I recently submitted my draft chapter on the Labietis brewery in Riga, Latvia for Medieval Beer Culture and Modern Beer Medievalisms, eds. Noelle Phillips, Rosemary O’Neill, and John A. Geck (Palgrave). My work critically examines Labietis as a geopolitically-inclined project that spans Latvia's pagan-Christian threshold through memory work that takes form in material culture (i.e. beer). Labietis is a fast-growing craft brewery steeped in a 1,200-year-old tradition that venerates Latvia’s pagan past, but also recognises the contributions of medieval monks to northern European brewing practices. Drawing on interviews with Labietis’ owner Reinis Pļaviņš, promotional material (beer descriptions, web site content, etc.), and my own visits to the tap room, this chapter explores the ways in which Latvia’s medieval history manifests in the medium of beer and brewing, including via imagery, iconography, nomenclature, ingredients, and everyday practices. In addition to a close analysis of Labietis beer and brewery, this chapter also provides a brief history of the eastern Baltic in the Middle Ages, as well as an analysis of the use of medievalism and the pre-Christian faith of Dievturība in the making of the modern nation-state of Latvia.

Popular Geopolitics, Strategic Narratives, and Soft Power in Viking (2016) and Guardians (2017)

Stemming from my participation in Leeds' University-led project 'Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICs', I recently contributed a chapter to Cinema and Soft Power: Configuring the National and Transnational in Geo-Politics, eds. Rachel Dwyer and Stephanie Dennison (University of Edinburgh Press). Drawing on the notion of strategic narratives in foreign policy, this chapter focuses on two contemporary big-budget Russian films, Viking (2016) and Guardians (2017), with the aim of interrogating filmic fantasy’s capacity to buttress Russian ‘soft power’. I am particularly interested in these films’ respective roles as influencers of geopolitical codes and geographical imagination, both at home and abroad. My purpose is to examine the ways in which multidirectional, geopolitically-informed mediascapes shape the ‘West’ and Russia’s respective Fremdbilder of one another, as well as prefigure changes in geopolitical attitudes, cultures and identities. By examining the (geo)visual representations and (geo)politically pregnant content of these two films in relation to their ‘Hollywood’-based counterparts, this study seeks to explore the ways in which soft power flows can be more effectively employed using pre-established modalities of popular cultural persuasion. 

Extending the Katechon:
Religio-Civilizational Vectors in Russia’s Intervention in the Levant

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 work on 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 at 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.

'Did you take the tour?' An Analysis of the Spatial Politics of New Jersey’s Craft Beer Taprooms

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.

Recent Publications

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

'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

'Pissing On the Past: The Highland Clearances, Effigial Resistance and the Everyday Politics of the Urinal', (with Rhys Crilley), Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 47(3), 2019, pp. 444-469

'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

'(Profitable) Imaginaries of Black Power: The Popular and Political Geographies of Black Panther', Political Geography, 69, 2019, pp. 139-149

'Reimagining the Colonial Wilderness: "Africa", Imperialism and the Geographical Legerdemain of the Vorrh,', Cultural Geographies, 2018, 26(2): 177–194


Popular Geopolitics and Nation Branding in the Post-Soviet Realm. Routledge (2020, paperback; 2017 cloth).

"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

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation, 2nd Ed. Scarecrow Press (2019); first ed. co-authored with Vlad Strukov (2010).

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

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

"Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov's edited collection works to bring popular culture and world politics scholarship together in a cohesive body of work through a careful tracing of both fields as logically converging into an interdisciplinary field capable of incorporating new and evolving intellectual currents." ~ The AAG Review of Books

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

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