Natalie Koch, PhD

Associate Professor & O’Hanley Faculty Scholar
Department of Geography, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University
Faculty Coordinator, Central Asia and the Caucasus Research Group
, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

I am a political geographer concentrated on state theory, territoriality, nationalism, citizenship, and authoritarianism. My research focuses on resource-rich states in Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, where I examine how people (re)produce place-based affinities and identities, and in so doing, construct moral geographies of liberalism and illiberalism. I am especially interested in alternative sites of geopolitical analysis such as sport, spectacle, higher education, urban development, and other ostensibly positive discourses that constitute differential forms of geo-power, but ultimately enlist individuals as political subjects in nondemocratic polities.

I am currently working on my second book project, Spatializing authoritarianism: A critical geopolitics of the liberal-illiberal divide, and have two ongoing projects about technopolitics in the Gulf region: “Laboratories of liberalism in the Arabian Peninsula” (with Neha Vora) and “Green laboratories: Alternative energy futures and sustainability exemplars in the Arabian Peninsula.”


Commentaries and policy memos


Recent publications

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

Koch, N. Forthcoming. Sports and the city. Geography Compass.

Koch, N. Forthcoming. Green laboratories: University campuses as sustainability ‘exemplars’ in the Arabian Peninsula. Society and Natural Resources.

Koch, N. Forthcoming. Disorder over the border: Spinning the spectre of instability through time and space in Central Asia. Central Asian Survey.

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

Koch, N., ed. 2017. Critical geographies of sport: Space, power, and sport in global perspective. New York: Routledge. [Amazon]

Koch, N. 2016. We entrepreneurial academics: Governing globalized higher education in ‘illiberal’ states. Territory, Politics, Governance 4(4): 438-452. [Text]

Koch, N and A. Paasi. 2016. Banal Nationalism 20 years on: Re-thinking, re-formulating, and re-contextualizing the concept. Political Geography 54: 1-6. [Text]

Koch, N. 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. [Text]

Koch, N. 2016. Is a ‘critical’ area studies possible? Environment and Planning D 34(5): 807-814. [Text]

Koch, N. and K. White. 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: 181-207. [Text]

Koch, N. 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. [Text] [Talk on YouTube]

Koch, N. and A. Valiyev. 2015. Urban boosterism in closed contexts: Spectacular urbanization and second-tier mega-events in three Caspian capitals. Eurasian Geography and Economics 56(5): 575-598. [Text]

Koch, N. 2015. Gulf nationalism and the geopolitics of constructing falconry as a ‘heritage sport.’ Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 15(3): 522–539. [Text]

Vora, N. and N. Koch. 2015. Everyday inclusions: Rethinking ethnocracy, kafala, and belonging in the Arabian Peninsula. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 15(3): 540–552. [Text]

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

Koch, N. 2015. ‘Spatial socialization’: Understanding the state effect geographically. Nordia Geographical Publications 44(4): 29-35. [Text]

Koch, N. 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. [Text]

Koch, N. 2015. Domesticating elite education: Raising patriots and educating Kazakhstan’s future. In M. Ayoob and M. Ismayilov (Eds.) Identity and foreign policy in Central Eurasia. New York: Routledge: 82-100. [Text]

Koch, N. 2014. ‘Building glass refrigerators in the desert’: Discourses of urban sustainability and nation-building in Qatar. Urban Geography 35(8): 1118-1139. [Text]

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

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

Koch, N. 2013. Introduction – Field methods in ‘closed contexts’ : Undertaking research in authoritarian states and places. Area 45(4): 390-395. [Text]

Koch, N. 2013. Technologising the opinion: Focus groups, coercion, and performance. Area 45(4): 411-418. [Text]

Koch, N. 2013. The ‘heart’ of Eurasia? Kazakhstan’s centrally-located capital city. Central Asian Survey 32(2): 134-147. [Text]

Koch, N. 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. [Text]

Koch, N. 2013. Sport and soft-authoritarian nation-building. Political Geography 32 (2013): 42-51. [Text]

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

Koch, N. 2012. Urban ‘utopias’: The Disney stigma and discourses of ‘false modernity.’ Environment and Planning A 44(10): 2245-2462. [Text]

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

Koch, N. 2010. The monumental and the miniature: Imagining ‘modernity’ in Astana. Social and Cultural Geography 11(8): 769-787. [Text]

Bond, A. and N. Koch. 2010. Interethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan: A political geographic perspective. Eurasian Geography and Economics 51(4): 531–562. [Text]

Wright, R. and N. Koch. 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.