Natalie Koch

Natalie Koch
Universität Heidelberg

PhD

About

83
Publications
25,966
Reads
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1,262
Citations
Introduction
I am a political geographer focusing on authoritarianism, geopolitics, nationalism and identity politics, and resource governance. I also work on sports geography. I am broadly interested in understanding how the territorial state system is maintained, and how individuals become subjects in different political systems and spaces. I have conducted extensive research on Central Asia in the past, but my work is currently focused on the Arabian Peninsula.
Additional affiliations
August 2008 - August 2012
University of Colorado
Position
  • PhD Student
Education
August 2008 - August 2012
University of Colorado Boulder
Field of study
  • Geography
August 2007 - June 2008
Harvard University
Field of study
  • Russian, East Euopean, & Central Asian Studies
September 2003 - June 2006
Dartmouth College
Field of study
  • Geography; Russian Area Studies

Publications

Publications (83)
Article
Deserts, like any geographic setting, are not sites where geopolitical dramas simply unfold or "touch down"; rather, they actively constitute geopolitical orders. This article shows how taking deserts rather than states as an entry point can provide a unique lens on geopolitics, state making, and empire. Investigating the political lives of deserts...
Article
Deserts have a special prominence in apocalyptic visions of the future. As a trope, the desert frequently indexes apocalyptic visions of the warming planet and future challenges of securing food, energy, and water in a changing environment. This article considers how diffuse visions of "environmental apocalypse" are spun through narratives construc...
Article
Free download till May 8th at: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1emNU3Qu6uboqh What might we consider authoritarian space-time? Authoritarianism is a political relationship defined by univocality and subordination of difference to a central authority or vision. Authoritarian space-time thus works through singularity; it collapses the multiplicity of...
Article
Full-text available
In the late 1930s, the American oil company Aramco helped Saudi Arabia's King Ibn Saud develop his royal farm outside Riyadh. On the king's request, Aramco introduced new technology to tap the Al Kharj region's rich aquifer water and establish vast fields of wheat, alfalfa, and other water-intensive crops. Saudi Arabia's aquifers have since been pu...
Book
Full-text available
Authoritarianism has emerged as a prominent theme in popular and academic discussions of politics since the 2016 US presidential election and the coinciding expansion of authoritarian rhetoric and ideals across Europe, Asia, and beyond. Until recently, however, academic geographers have not focused squarely on the concept of authoritarianism. Its l...
Article
In this commentary, I respond to James Riding and Carl Dahlman's article, 'Montage space: borderlands, micronations, terra nullius, and the imperialism of the geographical imagination'. I build on their arguments about 'more-than-dry landscapes' to consider how the relationship between fluid and non-fluid landscapes sheds light on the construction...
Chapter
Full-text available
The Arabian Peninsula has hosted an array of major sporting events in recent years, including high-profile events in tennis, cycling, sailing, golf, polo, horse racing, and Formula 1 and E, the Asian Games, and the FIFA World Cup. To enable this, local leaders and their allies have transformed the urban fabric of cities like Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai,...
Article
https://aspeniaonline.it/global-sports-and-the-gulfs-sovereign-wealth-funds/
Article
https://aspeniaonline.it/the-gulfs-sovereign-wealth-fund-cities/
Article
In December 2018, the University of Arizona was awarded a US$3.9 million contract from the Sultanate of Oman to develop research laboratories for the country’s “One Million Date Palms for Oman” initiative. This project is only the most recent example of a much longer set of collaborations between actors in the two regions, which began when Omani da...
Article
In 2014 the largest dairy company in the Middle East, Almarai, purchased a farm near Vicksburg, Arizona, to grow alfalfa as feed for cattle in Saudi Arabia. Almarai is headquartered at Al Kharj farms, just outside of Riyadh, where it has a herd of more than 93,000 milk cows. Given that dairy and alfalfa farms both require an immense amount of water...
Article
On 4 June 2017, Qatar was suddenly put under an embargo by its regional neighbors – an effort spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who cut off most of its existing land, sea, and air traffic routes. With no domestic agriculture to speak of, Qatar’s external logistics networks are essential for maintaining its food supply. The country’s 2.6 mill...
Article
Full-text available
The political and ethical quandaries of the “crisis of representation” that beset the social sciences from the 1980s on continue to reverberate in how geographers conduct their research today. Illustrated with two vignettes from my research in the UAE and Kazakhstan, this article explores the idea of “deep listening” as a methodological tack and mi...
Article
Full-text available
'AgTech' is the latest discourse about introducing new technologies to agricultural production. Researchers, corporations, and governments around the world are investing heavily in supporting its development. Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest emirate in the UAE, has been among these supporters, recently announcing a massive scheme to support Ag...
Article
Full-text available
American university globalization has increasingly targeted and been courted by authoritarian states. While the reasons for these partnerships are manifold—including the ease of top-down large-scale monetary investment, “knowledge economy” development strategies, social engineering programs, and other corporate and imperial entanglements—an overwhe...
Article
[N]ew forms of governance in the Gulf work through identity projects that include (and often co-opt) difference to gain legitimacy.
Article
Full-text available
States, government officials, cultural elites, and ordinary citizens are typically the leading characters in academic treatises on nationalism—cast as the primary producers and consumers of nationalist ideology. Yet this conventional focus obscures the many corporate aspects of nationalism. Drawing from the literature on “commercial nationalism”, t...
Article
The names of two major Gulf airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates, have saturated the European football scene for many years, sponsoring some of the most prominent European teams and FIFA itself. These state-backed airlines are also active in motorsports, rugby, cycling, tennis, golf, cricket, and equestrian sport, while several prominent Gulf elite...
Article
Full-text available
This article examines a dominant vision in contemporary geopolitics, in which the world is imagined as divided between liberal and illiberal political systems, clustering around the two conceptual nodes of "democracy" and "authoritarianism". It considers how these conceptual nodes are imagined, mapped, and brought to life through writing, policies,...
Article
Although ‘resources’ and ‘nationalism’ are core analytical categories in geography, the concept of ‘resource nationalism’ has received little attention in the discipline. We address this lacuna by reviewing relevant literature across the social sciences, and tracing key concepts and scalar frames to advance a critical approach to resource nationali...
Article
This article examines recent renewable energy initiatives in two hydrocarbon rich states of Eurasia: Kazakhstan and Russia. The global nature of challenges surrounding energy and natural resource use demand that sustainability and “energy transition” policies be understood as geopolitical issues, which are increasingly (re)defining political relati...
Article
Review of "Urban geopolitics: Rethinking planning in contested cities"
Article
State leaders in the Arabian Peninsula have increasingly sought to host globalized sporting events to broadcast a cosmopolitan and modern image of the region. These efforts are typically interpreted as examples of states exercising 'soft power'. This article challenges the state-centric assumptions built into the soft power approach by employing an...
Book
Why do autocrats build spectacular new capital cities? In The Geopolitics of Spectacle, Natalie Koch considers how autocratic rulers use "spectacular" projects to shape state-society relations, but rather than focus on the standard approach—on the project itself—she considers the unspectacular "others." The contrasting views of those from the poore...
Article
This article reviews how sport has been engaged in urban geography and related fields. Across the social sciences, there has been an explosion of research on “sporting mega-events,” such as the Olympics and FIFA World Cup. While much of this scholarship has examined the effects of these events for cities and city residents, I emphasize a longer and...
Article
Across Eurasia, authoritarian leaders have sought to justify their 'strong-hand' approach to government by framing instability as a security threat and the strong state as a guarantor of political stability. Such 'regimes of certainty' promote a modernist valorization of order, the flip side of which is a demonization of political disorder instabil...
Article
Like many universities in the West, universities across the Arabian Peninsula are increasingly home to various conspicuous sustainability initiatives. This article examines this trend at three of the region’s most prominent projects: NYU-Abu Dhabi in the Emirates, Qatar Foundation’s Education City, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Sci...
Article
This article examines monumental mosques and particularly those that are built to be and function more as monuments than as places for worship. We consider the role of monumentality in religious landscapes by way of six exemplary mosques in three different world regions – Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Southeast Asia. Tracing their unique...
Article
In 1976, Michel Foucault gave a unique interview with the editors of the French geography journal, Hérodote . The interviewers pushed him to explicitly reflect on the many spatial concepts that pervade his writing, such as region, province, field, archipelago , and territory . In one reply, Foucault explained: People have often reproached me for th...
Article
Reviews Benjamin Smith , Market Orientalism: Cultural Economy and the Arab Gulf States (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2015). Pp. 347. $49.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780815634102
Article
This article analyzes the role of mosques dedicated to the "father of the nation" under two personalistic authoritarian systems: Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan and Sheikh Zayed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Critiquing "cult of personality" narratives as Orientalist and analytically weak, I emphasize the constructed nature of charisma, aski...
Article
At a time when nearly every topic seems to be labeled “critical” in geography, this essay asks why the discipline has lacked a clear commitment to advancing a “critical area studies” agenda. The term “critical” can take many meanings but, I argue, it has generally been an important way to “other” geography’s past, including the encyclopedism of old...
Article
The global landscape of higher education has been in rapid flux, especially apparent in the recent proliferation of new universities, international partnerships, and foreign branch campuses being established in various nondemocratic states across Asia. This trend is exemplified in the Gulf Arab monarchies of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, whic...
Article
This introduction considers the significance of Michael Billig's (1995) Banal Nationalism to geographers, and how this fits into broader trends of nationalism research in the social sciences. Through an analysis of Web of Science citation trends for the book, we illustrate its spatial and temporal reach in terms of the countries where it has been c...
Article
This paper presents a case study of urban boosterism in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan – three resource-rich states around the Caspian Sea. Boosterist projects are typically justified through the injunction of, “build it and they will come.” This cliché is a staple of how urban planners and elites seek to justify development schemes that...
Article
Scholarship on Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) states, which have the highest proportions of migrants in the world, usually explores how they are unique in their patterns of non-citizen exclusion. However, state discourses, geographies, and the heterogeneity of migration to the Gulf share similar traits with contemporary nations and states. Non-citi...
Article
This paper illustrates how Gulf nationals' claims to their homelands are affirmed and enacted through the ostensibly banal, but highly political, effort to construct falconry as a ‘heritage sport’. Taking the case of the United Arab Emirates, I argue that local elites have harnessed the global discourse of ‘heritage’ to construct an ethnicized and...
Article
Interrogating the concept of ‘legality’ and how it relates to local citizenship regimes, this article shows how a focus on cross-regional divergences can offer theoretical insights into the political implications of projects that, on the surface, appear to be strikingly similar. Taking the case of apparently similar spectacular capital city develop...
Article
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have been home to the most impressive urban development projects in the entire post-Soviet world. Their capitals, Astana and Ashgabat, now boast uniquely monumental architecture and local leaders have invested heavily in ‘green belt’ projects to surround the cities with lush vegetation, as well as developing green and wa...
Article
This article revisits Anssi Paasi’s concept of “spatial socialization.” The hallmark of Paasi’s geographic approach to identity, the concept offers a way to move beyond statist approaches that either reify the state or dismiss its significance. Spatial socialization sheds light on how the myths of coherence of “states,” “territories,” and otherwise...
Article
Planners around the Arab Gulf states are increasingly drawing on narratives about “urban sustainability,” despite the fact that the explosive growth of urban centers in the Arabian desert largely defies the logic of sustainability. In this article, I consider how and with what effect these narratives have been deployed by various actors in Doha, Qa...
Article
This article examines recent higher education projects in two resource-rich, developmental states: Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. These projects are indicative of broader trend across Asia to move beyond previous national universities, toward a state-initiated model of the globally competitive university, which is designed to become an regional hub f...
Article
Focus groups, like interviews and survey research, are typically employed in liberal settings, and are often designed to reveal the ‘opinion’ of participants. However, as I argue here, the ‘opinion’ is itself a technology of government, which cannot be assumed to operate the same under different regimes of governmentality. Giving the example of my...
Article
This special section on field methods in authoritarian states and places aims to move beyond the normative language of the liberal/illiberal binary by foregrounding the ways in which closure can be an authoritarian act. Illustrating the variety of scales and places at which these practices unfold, the contributors are concerned with what implicatio...
Article
State-led urban development projects, especially in non-democratic settings, are conducive to a top–down analytic that focuses on state planners and architects. The goal of this article is to explore how we might decentre this narrative and jointly consider elite and non-elite narratives, through an analysis of discourses of modernity as enacted in...
Article
In a world still dominated by a geopolitical system of territorial states, one tool in the state- and nation-building repertoire is the strategy of moving a capital from one city to another, and to an ostensibly more ?central? location of a geometrically conceived territory. From Ankara to Brasília, the technique has been used in a variety of place...
Article
The world cities literature typically examines how and why certain cities achieve world city status, but this article examines why some actors eschew the world city competition and choose not to engage the discourse, despite deploying the very same urban development tactics. Through a case study of Astana, Kazakhstan's new capital city, I argue tha...
Article
A US geographer examines prevailing geopolitical discourses in Kazakhstan, through a case study of attitudes toward China and its influence in contemporary affairs. As part of a broader research project, the study draws on data from participant observation, textual analysis, interviews, focus groups, and a country-wide survey administered in Kazakh...
Article
This paper examines the political implications of the practice of framing mega urban development projects with the language of 'utopia' or 'Disney'. Through a case study of Kazakhstan's new capital, Astana, I argue that the stigmatizing language of 'utopia' is a highly political bordering practice, defining the 'imaginary' and the 'real.' Coupled w...
Article
Contributing to the growing literature on feminist geopolitics, this article addresses the security discourses employed by the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan's post-independence nation-building process. It examines the ways in which militarism and the 'culture of war' are productive of gendered national identities in Uzbekistan, focusing on how the '...
Article
This article examines the elite nation-building project in post-independence Kazakhstan through an analysis of monumental architecture and miniature models in Astana. It considers the role of the country's new capital as a modernist project, in which elite geopolitical imaginaries are multiply inscribed in the cityscape. Drawing on interdisciplinar...
Article
Full-text available
Two U.S. geographers review an array of intertwining political geographic issues that provide context and set the stage for deadly armed conflict between groups of ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh in June 2010. Applying a disaggregated and localized approach to understanding the ambiguous and complex factors underlyin...
Chapter
Full-text available
This article explore the history of geography in the Ivy League – eight of the oldest and most prestigious academic institutions in the United States. Each of these influential universities provided instruction in geography and most established undergraduate or graduate programs at one time or another. Although most Ivy League universities have geo...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This project engages with the broad themes of nation-building and geopolitics, taking the perspective that elite national identity projects serve as the foundation for the development of geopolitical culture and traditions in a given state. This case study of Kazakhstan's post-independence nation-building project is thus developed as a means to she...

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Projects

Projects (2)
Project
Developing eclectic, trans-regional, innovative angles on the geographies of Central Asia.
Project
Developing eclectic, trans-regional, innovative angles on the geographies of the Arabian Peninsula.