Current and Recent Projects

The thrust of my current research agenda explores intersections between speculative fiction, geopolitics, and environmental chaos at the local, national, and global scale.  This new direction interrogates (more-than-)visual representations of humanity's geological agency at the planetary level, and how such imaginaries impact our everyday geopolitical codes, practices, and orders. Most recently, I published an article in Political Geography on the absent presence of the Anthropocene - specifically anthropogenic degradation of the world's oceans - in the second installation of Disney-MCU's Black Panther franchise, Wakanda Forever (2022). Drawing on related themes, I analyse Western culture's visual relationship with the Anthropocene, including our blind spots, via the apocalyptic Apple TV+ series See (2019-2022); this article will soon appear in a special issue of Critical Studies in Television on televisual landscapes in times of climate crises, which I co-edited with Anne Marit Waade and Irina Souch. Other recent publications include treatments of the Ghostbusters franchise through the lens of (un)conscious climate culture  (Academic Quarter) and Counterpart's pre-mediation of the pandemic-Anthropocene connection for our coming Covid realities (Geopolitics), as well as a review essay on recent texts that plot a new direction in ecocritical geopolitics (Geopolitics). Employing Indigenous, feminist, and imaginative approaches to bring the 'geos' into geopolitics, I recently completed work on a chapter entitled 'Posthuman Geopolitical Culture(s): Decentering the State in the Anthropocene Epoch', which will appear in Environmentalism After Humanism (eds. Andrew Rose and Stefanie Fishel).

Linking this research agenda with my multi-year study of Nordic noir TV series and geopolitics is the chapter 'Screening Arctic Landscapes in Nordic Television Drama: Anthropocenic Imaginaries, Ecological Crises, National Identities' (also with  Souch and Waade) in Photography, Geopolitics, and the Northern Landscape in the Era of Environmental Crisis, eds. Chris Goldie, Darcy White and Julia Peck (De Gruyter, 2023). Regarding the latter, Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir: What Television Series Tell Us About World Politics (Routledge, 2021) served as the culmination of this undertaking, which included the development of typology of geopolitical television (Geopolitics), an examination of The Bridge (Bron|Broen) and its first two adaptations in prefiguring (geo)political controversies in Sweden/Denmark, U.S./Mexico, and Great Britain/France (Social & Cultural Geography), and article focusing on Norwegian national identity against the backdrop of the migration crisis via the police procedural Beforeigners which will be published in a forthcoming special issue on sf in cultural geographies. 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 book chapters on crime drama, neoliberalism, and transnational issues. 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).




Black + Brown ≠ Green:
The Absent Presence of the Anthropocene in 
Wakanda Forever



Four years after the globally-lauded premiere of Black Panther, Marvel-Disney launched its sequel Wakanda Forever. The film centres on the new all-female leadership of the fictional African monarchy as it grapples with an emergent threat from Namor, the centuries-old ruler of an undersea Mesoamerican kingdom known as Talokan. By interrogating the absent presence of the Anthropocene in the second iteration of the MCU franchise, my recently-published article in Political Geography interrogates the popular, political, and planetary geographies of the expanding BP universe, focusing on what is screened in WF and what is left unscreened (obscene). In terms of the former, the article complicates the potential-if-unrealised geopolitical condominium between the black and brown superpowers against the (neo)imperial white/surface world. Regarding the latter, it examines director Ryan Coogler’s retro-active change in continuity which denudes Namor of his ecological activism and his burden of care for the oceans and the lifeforms contained therein. While anthropogenic climate change, rampant oceanic pollution, and humanity’s geological agency stalk the filmic narrative, these hyperobjects are conspicuously missing from the diegesis, thus indicating the unwillingness and/or inability of Disney – qua the consummate American global conglomerate – to make a case for environmentalism in the face of cascading planetary crises.


Genealogical Journeys, Geographical Imagination, and (Popular) Geopolitics in Who Do You Think You Are?'

Genealogy is big business, accounting for $3 billion every year in the US market alone. Enhanced via public record digitisation, crowd-sourced data input, and consumer genetics testing, interest in one’s ancestral roots has never been higher. Recognizing the public interest in personal lineages, the BBC launched the docuseries Who Do You Think You Are? in 2004. Focusing on celebrities’ family backgrounds and how their hitherto-unknown forebears’ experiences shaped their lives and careers, the format was quickly adapted for other national audiences with nearly 20 versions around the world. My article on the series entitled 'Genealogical Journeys, Geographical Imagination, and (Popular) Geopolitics in Who Do You Think You Are?' appears in a special issue of Social & Cultural Geography with the theme (Em)Placing the Popular Cultural Geography (I also co-edited the special issue with Alex Hastie). My article, which focuses on three celebrity members of the Black Diaspora, interrogates the phenomenon of mediated genealogical research through the twinned prisms of race and postcolonialism, assessing the ways in which power and privilege are unpacked through carefully-curated spatial narrations of private pasts meant for popular consumption.  



Ghostbusting in the Late Anthropocene: The 1980s, (Un)Conscious Climate Culture, and Our Holocene Afterlives

Published in a special issue of Academic Quarter entitled 'Perspectives on the Anthropocene', my intervention examines the latent ecocriticism of the horror-comedy Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) against its original source material in the context of climate catastrophe culture. As a sequel to the Ghostbusters films (1984, 1989), Afterlife shifts the setting: (geo)physically, from metropolitan New York City to a ‘dirt farm’ in Summerville, Oklahoma, and generationally, from the original middle-aged, male ghost-catchers to the teenaged grandchildren of the brightest among them. While the original antagonist – the (fictive) Sumerian god Gozer – returns once more to end the world, the Anthropo(s)cenic landscapes of Afterlife establish the film as a geopolitical intervention in the debate on the already-in-progress environmental apocalypse. In its (partial) rejection of the values of its 1980s-era source material, which is critically assessed herein, I argue that Afterlife speaks to humanity’s emergence as a geological agent defined by geopolitical cultures rooted in human exploitation, hydrocarbon extraction, agro-industrialisation, and nuclearism. Indeed, the decade of Reaganism haunts the film, serving as a ghostly reminder of how we arrived at our current Anthropocene predicament through white heteropatriarchal triumphalism, neoliberal excess, and ecocide.




Out of Time/In Place: Norwegianness, ‘Immigration’, and Spatial Belonging in Beforeigners

My essay on Beforeigners will be included in a future special issue on geographies of science fiction in cultural geographies, as is now available in pre-print form on the website. In the article, I examine television – as a form of representation, a space of affect, and an instrument of identity production – as a growing force in shaping perceptions of and views on international immigration. While geographers have examined the ways in which films, documentaries, and social media engage with the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ in Europe, there has been little work on fictional TV series as a force in world-building and place-making against the spectre of ‘unchecked migration’. Building on recent research on televisual interventions into the issues of migration, (b)orders, and securitisation, this article interrogates HBO Europe’s Norwegian-language sf series Beforeigners. With a focus on fantastical constructions of spatiality against temporality, the primary focus of this article is on the ways in which near-future science fiction engages with ontological insecurities around integration, xenophobia, and territorial belonging. This is accomplished by engaging the ‘temporal turn’ in cultural geography, which is increasingly focused on linking time, space, and migrant lives/bodies. Recognising TV series’ contributions to cultural, social, and political transformations that are of geographical significance, this essay seeks to expand and complicate scholarship on the suasive power of migrant representation on the small screen.

Other Recent Publications

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

'Latvia’s Labietis: Modern Craft Brewing Across the Pagan-Christian Threshold', Beer and Brewing in Medieval Culture and Contemporary Medievalism, eds. Noelle Phillips, Rosemary O’Neill, and John A. Geck, Springer (2022), pp. 181-204.

'ICYMI: RT and Youth-Oriented International Broadcasting as (Geo)Political Culture Jamming', co-authored with Rhys Crilley and Precious Chatterje-Doody, The International Journal of Press/Politics, 2022, 27(3): 696–717

'Geopolitics on the "Other Side": Counterpart’s Imaginary of a World System after the Virus', Geopolitics, 2022, 27(5), pp.  1574-1598.

'Popular Geopolitics, Strategic Narratives, and Soft Power in Viking (2016) and Guardians (2017)', Cinema and Soft Power: Configuring the National and Transnational in Geo-Politics, eds. Stephanie Dennison and Rachel Dwyer, University of Edinburgh Press (2021), pp. 140-168.

'Extending the Katechon: Religio-Civilizational Vectors in Russia’s Intervention in the Levant', Striking from the Margins: State, Religion and Devolution of Authority in the Middle East, eds. Nadia Al-Bagdadi, Aziz Al-Azmeh, Harout Akdedian, and Harith Hasan, Al-Saqi Books (2021), pp. 282-310.

'Völkisch Vibes: Neofolk, Place, Politics, and Pan-European Nationalism', Nationalism and Popular Culture, ed. Tim Nieguth, Routledge (2020), pp. 36-58.

Books


Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir: What Television Series Tell Us About World Politics. Routledge (2022, paperback; 2021 cloth).

'Geopolitics, Northern Europe, and Nordic Noir is one of those rare books that transcends disciplines to leave a seminal mark on several [providing] a hitherto unexamined argument for attending particularly to Nordic televisual crime narratives to investigate a current geopolitical moment marked by Anthropogenic climate change and cultural polarisations that transcend the Nordic region'. ~ Scandinavica

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

Popular Geopolitics: Plotting an Evolving Interdiscipline. Routledge (2020 paperback; 2018 cloth).

'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

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

Ethnopolitics in Cyberspace: The Internet, Minority Nationalism, and the Web of Identity. Lexington Books (2016 paperback; 2010 cloth).

'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 (2009 paperback; 2008 cloth).

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