Natalie Koch

Associate Professor, Geography

Natalie Koch 2019

Contact Information

144B Eggers
(315) 443-5637

O'Hanley Faculty Scholar


Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2012


Political geography, nationalism, energy and the environment, sport, Gulf and Arabian Peninsula studies

Personal Website


GEO 105, World Urban Geography

GEO 372, Political Geography

GEO 400, Authoritarianism

GEO 500, Mapping Desert Geopolitics

GEO 672, Geopolitics and the State

GEO 700, Authoritarianism Today (Maxwell-in-DC)

GEO 810, Political Geography Seminar


I am a political geographer concentrated on state theory, geopolitics, nationalism and identity politics, and resource governance. I also specialize in sports geography. My regional expertise is in the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia, where I examine alternative sites of geopolitics, such as spectacle, sport, higher education, urban development, environmental policy, and developmentalism more generally. In exploring how ostensibly positive expressions of state power differentially engage individuals as political subjects, I ask how people (re)produce place-based affinities and identities, and in so doing, construct moral geographies of liberalism and illiberalism. In addition to a broader study of energy and environmental policy in the Arabian Peninsula, I am currently working on a project that aims to de-center state-centric approaches to geopolitics via the lens of deserts. Through a case study of connections between Arizona and the Arabian Peninsula, I trace the actors, ideas, and agencies that explain the deep history of connection between the Middle East and the arid lands of the US Southwest. The project explores how desert imaginaries and materialities are both produced and used to promote specific environmental interventions, techno-modernities, forms of expertise, imperialism and other transnational networks of power — today and historically.

Prospective graduate students wishing to work on any aspect of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula studies are welcome to contact me.



Forthcoming. Handbook on the changing geographies of the state: New spaces of geopolitics. Northampton: Edward Elgar (with S. Moisio, A. Jonas, C. Lizotte, J. Luukkonen).

2018. The geopolitics of spectacle:  Space, synecdoche, and the new capitals of Asia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

2017. Critical geographies of sport: Space, power, and sport in global perspective. New York: Routledge.

  • Ch. 1, Introduction: Critical geographies of sport in global perspective, p. 1-11
  • Ch. 7, Athletic autocrats: Understanding images of authoritarian leaders as sportsmen, p. 91-107
  • Ch. 16, Conclusion: Toward a critical geography of sport: Space, power, and social justice, p. 237-252 (with D. Jansson)

Articles and book chapters

Forthcoming. The corporate production of nationalism. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography.

Forthcoming. The geopolitics of Gulf sport sponsorship. Sports, Ethics & Philosophy: Journal of the British Philosophy of Sport Association.

Forthcoming. Laboratories of liberalism: American higher education in the Arabian Peninsula and the discursive production of authoritarianism. Minerva (with N. Vora).

Forthcoming. The geopolitics of renewables in Kazakhstan and Russia. Geopolitics (with V-P. Tynkkynen).

Forthcoming. Deep listening: Practicing intellectual humility in geographic fieldwork. The Geographical Review

2019. Post-triumphalist geopolitics: Liberal selves, authoritarian Others. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 18(4): 909-924.

2019. Resource nationalism. Progress in Human Geography 43(4): 611-631 (with T. Perreault).

2018. The geopolitics of sport beyond soft power: Event ethnography and the 2016 Cycling World Championships in Qatar. Sport in Society 21(12): 2010-2031.

2018. Sports and the city. Geography Compass 12(3): 12:e12360.

2018. Green laboratories: University campuses as sustainability ‘exemplars’ in the Arabian Peninsula. Society & Natural Resources 35(1): 525-540.

2018. Mosques as monuments: An inter-Asian perspective on monumentality and religious landscapes. cultural geographies 25(1): 183-199 (with A. Valiyev and H. Khairul).

2018. Disorder over the border: Spinning the spectre of instability through time and space in Central Asia. Central Asian Survey 37(1): 13-30.

2016. Cowboys, gangsters, and rural bumpkins: Constructing the ‘other’ in Kazakhstan’s ‘Texas.’ In M. Laruelle (ed.), Kazakhstan in the Making: Legitimacy, Symbols, and Social Changes. Lanham: Lexington Books, p. 181-207 (with Kristopher White).

2016. We entrepreneurial academics: Governing globalized higher education in 'illiberal' states. Territory, Politics, Governance 4(4): 438-452.

2016. Banal Nationalism 20 years on: Re-thinking, re-formulating and re-contextualizing the concept. Political Geography 54: 1-6 (with Anssi Paasi).

2016. Is nationalism just for nationals? Civic nationalism for non-citizens and celebrating National Day in Qatar and the UAE. Political Geography 54: 43-53.

2016. Is a ‘critical’ area studies possible? Environment & Planning D: Space and Society 34(5): 807-814.

2016. The 'personality cult' problematic: Personalism and mosques memorializing the 'father of the nation' in Turkmenistan and the UAE. Central Asian Affairs 3(4): 330-359.

2015. Everyday inclusions: Rethinking ethnocracy, kafala, and belonging in the Arabian Peninsula. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism  15(3): 540-552 (with Neha Vora).

2015. Gulf nationalism and the geopolitics of constructing falconry as a 'heritage sport.' Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 15(3): 522-539.

2015. Exploring divergences in cross-regional comparative research: The spectacular cities of Central Asia and the GCC. Area 47(4): 436-442.

2015. 'Spatial socialization': Understanding the state effect geographically. Nordia Geographical Publications 44(4): 29-35.

2015. The violence of spectacle: Statist schemes to green the desert and constructing Astana and Ashgabat as urban oases. Social and Cultural Geography 16(6): 675-697.

2015. Domesticating elite education: Raising patriots and educating Kazakhstan's future. In M. Ayoob and M. Ismayilov, Identity and Foreign Policy in Central Eurasia. New York: Routledge: 82-100.

2014. 'Building glass refrigerators in the desert': Discourses of urban sustainability and nation-building in Qatar, Urban Geography  35(8): 1118-1139.

2014. The shifting geopolitics of higher education: Inter/nationalizing elite universities in Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and beyond. Geoforum 56: 46-54.

2014. Bordering on the modern: Power, practice, and exclusion in Astana, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39 (3): 432-443.

2013. Introduction - Field methods in 'closed contexts': Undertaking research in authoritarian states and places. Area  45(4): 390-395.

2013. Technologizing the opinion: Focus groups, coercion, and performance. Area  45(4): 411-418.

2013. The 'heart' of Eurasia? Kazakhstan's centrally-located capital city, Central Asian Survey 32(2): 134-147.

2013. Kazakhstan's changing geopolitics: The resource economy and popular attitudes about China's growing regional influence, Eurasian Geography and Economics 54(1): 110-133.

2013. Sport and soft authoritarian nation-building, Political Geography 32: 41-52.

2013. Why not a world city? Astana, Ankara, and geopolitical scripts in urban networks, Urban Geography 34(1): 109-130. 

2012. Urban 'utopias': The Disney stigma and discourses of 'false modernity.' Environment and Planning A 44(10): 2445-2462.

2011. Security and gendered national identity in Uzbekistan. Gender, Place, and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 18(4): 499-518. 

2010. The monumental and the miniature: Imagining 'modernity' in Astana. Social and Cultural Geography 11(8): 769-787. 

2010. Interethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan: A political geographic perspective. Eurasian Geography and Economics 51(4): 531-562 (with A. Bond). 

2009. Ivy League and geography in the US. In R. Kitchen and N. Thrift (Eds.) International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Oxford, Elsevier. Volume 5: 616-621 (with R. Wright).

Commentaries and policy memos

2018. Sports and heritage in the UAE. LSE Middle East Centre Blog: December 15.

2018. The geopolitics of renewables in Kazakhstan. George Washington University Central Asia Program Memo #211.

2018. Renewables in Kazakhstan and Russia: Promoting ‘future energy’ or entrenching hydrocarbon dependency? PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo #538 (with V-P Tynkkynen).

2018. The World Cup and migration: Looking ahead to Qatar 2022. Jadaliyya: August 20 (with N. Vora).

2018. Gulf nationalism and invented traditions. LSE Middle East Centre Blog: August 3.

2018. Reassessing the Trump presidency, one year on. Political Geography 62: 207-215 (with P. Steinberg, S. Page, J. Dittmer, B. Gökariksel, S. Smith, A. Ingram).

2017. Qatar and Central Asia: What’s at Stake in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan? PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo #484.

2017. Geopower and geopolitics in, of, and for the Middle East. International Journal of Middle East Studies 49(2): 315-318.

2017. Orientalizing authoritarianism: Narrating US exceptionalism in popular reactions to the Trump election and presidency. Political Geography 58: 145-147.

2016. Restructuring extractive economies in the Caspian basin: Too little, too late? PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo #441 (with A. Valiyev). 

2016.  La fauconnerie, un ‘sport-héritage’ dans la péninsule arabique [Falconry as a ‘heritage sport’ in the Arabian Peninsula]. Conflits: Revue de géopolitique 10: 60-61.

2016. Why no "water wars" in Central Asia? Lessons learned from the Aral Sea disaster. PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo #410.

2015. The Sochi syndrome afoot in Central Asia: Spectacle and speculative building in Baku, Astana, and Ashgabat. PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo #371 (with A. Valiyev). Reprinted on openDemocracy.

2014. The Birth of Territory: Should Political Geographers Do Conceptual History? Dialogues in Human Geography 4 (3): 348-351.

2014. Grounding Central Asian geopolitics. Geopolitics 19: 227-233.

2013. Technologizing complacency: Spectacle, structural violence, and 'living normally' in a resource-rich state, Political Geography 37: A1-A2.

Research Grants and Awards

2019     SSRC InterAsia Program, Transregional Research Short-Term Residency Grant, Duke GAI (2020)

2019     SU Collaboration for Unprecedented Success and Excellence (CUSE) Grant (2019-2020)

2018     Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2019-2020)

2018     Merget Fellow, Maxwell-in-Washington, Syracuse University (2019-2020)

2018     Fulbright Core Scholars Grant, Middle East and North Africa Regional Research Program (UAE, Qatar)

2018    Visiting Fellows Alumni Grant, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

2017    Pre-proposal Research Grant, Department of Geography, Syracuse University

2016    SU Maxwell School’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award for Outstanding Teaching, Research and Service

2016    SU Meredith Professors’ Teaching Recognition Award

2015    SU Office of Sponsored Programs Small Grants Competition

2015    J. William Fulbright Core Faculty Fellows Grant, Azerbaijan (declined)

2015    NSF Catalyzing New International Collaborations

2014    Stanley D. Brunn Young Scholar Award, Political Geography Specialty Group of the AAG

2014    M. J. Wasylenko Faculty Research Grant, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University

2014    Central Asia Fellowship, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

2013    SSRC Postdoctoral Fellowship for Transregional Research (2013-2014)

2013    Pre-proposal Research Grant, Department of Geography, Syracuse University

2012    Appleby-Moser Fund for Research Grant, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University

2011    NSF and Academy of Finland Nordic Research Opportunity at University of Oulu

2010    NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant

2009    NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2009-2012)


Professional Service

Communications Liaison, Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies

Faculty Coordinator, Central Asia and the Caucasus Research Group

Editorial Board Member, Eurasian Geography and Economics

Editorial Board Member, GeoJournal

Editorial Board Member, Geopolitics

Editorial Board Member, Nationalities Papers

Editorial Board Member, Syracuse University Press

Faculty Advisor, Syracuse University Cycling Club

Faculty Advisor, SU Central Asian and Caucasus Student Union