Natalie Koch, PhD

I am a political geographer working on the topics of geopolitics, authoritarianism, nationalism, energy and environmental politics, and sports geography. Empirically, my research focuses on the Arabian Peninsula, where I study the many transnational ties that bind the Gulf countries, actors, and ideas to other parts of the world. My current projects include (1) sustainability and energy transition politics in the Arabian Peninsula; (2) megaprojects and developmental states in the Arabian Peninsula; (3) U.S.-Gulf science diplomacy; (4) sport geopolitics and the Arabian Peninsula; and (5) the history of Middle East connections in the U.S. Southwest.


Koch, N. 2022. Arid empire: The entangled fates of Arizona and Arabia. New York: Verso. [Amazon]

Koch, N. (ed.). 2022. Spatializing authoritarianism. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. [Amazon]

Moisio, S., N. Koch, A. Jonas, C. Lizotte, J. Luukkonen (eds.). 2020. Handbook on the changing geographies of the state: New spaces of geopolitics. Northampton: Edward Elgar. [Amazon]

Koch, N. 2018. The geopolitics of spectacle: Space, synecdoche, and the new capitals of Asia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Amazon]

Koch, N. (ed.). 2017. Critical geographies of sport: Space, power, and sport in global perspective. New York: Routledge. [Amazon]
Articles, book chapters, and commentaries

Koch, N. Forthcoming. Seeking surprise in political geography. In A. Curley, R. Lee, M. Sollai, S.S. Hughes, B. Meché, M. Lane, and N. Koch, “Review forum: Reading Natalie Koch’s, Arid empire: The entangled fates of Arizona and Arabia.” Political Geography.

Koch, N. 2024. Authoritarian regimes and the environment. In N. Lindstaedt and J. Van den Bosch (eds.), Research handbook on authoritarianism. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 213-227.

Koch, N. 2024. Geographies of authoritarian politics. In A. Wolf (ed.), Oxford handbook of authoritarian politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Koch, N. 2024. Gulf sport geopolitics and Western cultural hegemony. AspeniaOnline: International Analysis and Commentary.

Koch, N. 2024. Teaching geopolitics through sport. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 48(1): 31-36. [Text]

Koch, N. 2023. The problem with rallying around the (Ukrainian) flag. Space and Polity 27(2): 252-256.

Koch, N. 2023. Solar power’s water problem in the Arabian Peninsula. Bourse & Bazar Foundation Insight Brief.

Koch, N. 2023. Event ethnography: Studying power and politics through events. Geography Compass 17(12): e12729.

Koch, N. 2023. Free speech or obedient speech? Revisiting liberal speech norms in “closed context.” Area 55(4): 489-495.

Koch, N. 2023. Milk nationalism: Branding dairy and the state in the Arabian Peninsula. In S. Wippel (ed.), Branding the Middle East: Communication strategies and image building from Qom to Casablanca. Berlin: De Gruyter, 185-203.

Koch, N. 2023. Geographies of nationalism. Human Geography 16(2): 200-211. [Text]

Koch, N. 2023. Sustainability spectacle and “post-oil” greening initiatives. Environmental Politics 32(4): 708-731.

Koch, N. 2023. Revisiting “For ethnography in political geography.” Political Geography 102: 102837. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. Guest essay: Arizona is in a race to the bottom of its water wells, with Saudi Arabia’s help (December 26). The New York Times. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. The state fetish: Producing the territorial state system at a World’s Fair. FOCUS on Geography.

Koch, N. 2022. Greening oil money: The geopolitics of energy finance going green. Energy Research & Social Science 93: 102833.

Koch, N. 2022. Gulf hydrogen horizons: Why are Gulf oil and gas producers so keen on hydrogen? IASS Discussion Paper. IASS-Potsdam.

Koch, N. 2022. Authoritarian space-time. Political Geography 95: 102628. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. Planting flags in water. Dialogues in Human Geography 12(2): 302-306. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. Wastelanding Arabia: America’s ‘Garden of Eden’ in Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia. Journal of Historical Geography 77: 13-24. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. The political geography of economic nationalism. In A. Pickel (ed.), Handbook of economic nationalism. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 14-28. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. Global sport and Gulf’s sovereign wealth funds. AspeniaOnline: International Analysis and Commentary.

Koch, N. 2022. Sports sponsorship and Gulf geopolitics. Orient 2022 (III): 6-11. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. Sporting cities and economic diversification in the Arabian Peninsula. In P.M. Brannagan and D. Reiche (eds.), Routledge handbook of sport in the Middle East. New York: Routledge, 287-296. [Text]

Koch, N. 2022. Urban life in Central Asia. In D. Montgomery (ed.), Central Asia: Contexts for understanding. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 196-213. [Text]

Koch, N. 2021. The new sport geopolitics in 2022. The World in 2022, Italian Institute for International Political Studies.

Koch, N. 2021. The Gulf’s sovereign wealth fund cities. AspeniaOnline: International Analysis and Commentary.

Koch, N. 2021. The desert as laboratory: Science, state-making, and empire in the drylands. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 46(2): 495-509. [Text]

Koch, N. 2021. Whose apocalypse? Biosphere 2 and the spectacle of settler science in the desert. Geoforum 124: 36-45. [Text]

Koch, N. 2021. Food as a weapon? The geopolitics of food and the Qatar-Gulf rift. Security Dialogue 52(2): 118-134. [Text]

Koch, N. 2021. The political lives of deserts. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 111(1): 87-104. [Text]

Koch, N. 2021. Desert geopolitics: Arizona, Arabia, and an arid lands response to the territorial trap. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 41(1): 88-105. [Text]

Koch, N. 2021. Environmental geopolitics in Central Asia. In J. Van den Bosch, A. Fauve, and B. De Cordier (eds.), European handbook of Central Asian studies: History, politics and societies. Hannover: ibidem, 811-852.

Koch, N. and V-P. Tynkkynen. 2021. The geopolitics of renewables in Kazakhstan and Russia. Geopolitics 26(2): 521-540. [Text]

Laszczkowski, M. and N. Koch. 2021. Rethinking spectacular cities: Beyond authoritarianism and mastermind schemes. In R. Isaacs and E. Marat (eds.), Routledge handbook of contemporary Central Asia. New York: Routledge: 168-179.

Koch, N. and N. Vora. 2020. Islamophobia and the uneven legal geographies of ethnonationalism. Political Geography 83: 102187. [Text]

Koch, N. 2020. German pigs, and the autocrats who loved them. Los Angeles Review of Books.

Koch, N. 2020. The geopolitics of Gulf sport sponsorship. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 14(3): 355-376. [Text]

Koch, N. 2020. InterAsian Islamisms: Monumental mosques and modernity in Kazakhstan and Qatar. In B. Batuman (ed.), Cities and Islamisms: On the politics and the production of built environment. New York: Routledge: 15-30. [Text]

Koch, N. 2020. Deep listening: Practicing intellectual humility in geographic fieldwork. The Geographical Review 110(1-2): 52-64. [Text]

Koch, N. 2020. The corporate production of nationalism. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography 52(1): 185-205. [Text]

Koch, N. 2020. Methodological nationalism. In A. Kobayashi (ed.), The international encyclopedia of human geography (2nd ed., Vol. 9). Oxford: Elsevier: 245-248. [Text]

Koch, N. 2019. AgTech in Arabia: ‘Spectacular forgetting’ and the technopolitics of greening the desert. Journal of Political Ecology 26 (1): 666-686.

Koch, N. 2019. Capitalizing on cosmopolitanism in the Gulf. Current History 118(812): 349-355. [Text]

Koch, N. and N. Vora. 2019. Laboratories of liberalism: American higher education in the Arabian Peninsula and the discursive production of authoritarianism. Minerva 57(4): 549-564. [Text]

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

Koch, N. and T. Perreault. 2019. Resource nationalism. Progress in Human Geography 43(4): 611-631. [Text]

Koch, N. 2019. Privilege on the Pearl: The politics of place and the 2016 UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Doha, Qatar. In N. Wise and J. Harris (eds.), Events, Places and Societies. New York: Routledge. [Text]

Koch, N. 2019. National Day celebrations in Doha and Abu Dhabi: Cars and semiotic landscapes in the Gulf. In A. Diener and J. Hagen (eds.), The city as power: Urban space, place, and national identity. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 189-202. [Text]

Koch, N. 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. [Text]

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

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

Koch, N. 2018. The geopolitics of renewables in Kazakhstan. GW Central Asia Program Memo #211. [Text]

Vora, N. and N. Koch. 2018. The World Cup and migration: Looking ahead to Qatar 2022. Jadaliyya: August 20.

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

Koch, N. 2018. Sports and the city. Geography Compass 12(3): 12:e12360. [Text]

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

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

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. 2018. Ikonisches Aschgabat: Die monumentale Logik der turkmenischen Hauptstadt als politisches Symbol [Iconic Ashgabat: The monumental logic of Turkmenistan’s capital as a political symbol]. Zentralasien- Analysen 125: 7-10.

Koch, N. 2018. Trump, one year later: Three myths of liberalism exposed. In “Reassessing the Trump presidency, one year on” (with P. Steinberg, S. Page, J. Dittmer, B. Gökariksel, S. Smith, A. Ingram). Political Geography 62: 207-215. [Text]

Koch, N. 2017. Qatar and Central Asia: What’s at stake in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan? PONARS Eurasia. Policy memo #484.

Koch, N. 2017. Geopower and Geopolitics in, of, and for the Middle East. International Journal of Middle East Studies 49(2): 315-318. [Text]

Koch, N. 2017. Orientalizing authoritarianism: Narrating US exceptionalism in popular reactions to the Trump election and presidency. Political Geography 58: 145-147. [Text]

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, 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 2016. Restructuring extractive economies in the Caspian basin: Too little, too late? PONARS Eurasia. Policy memo #441. [reprinted on RBK as “Реформы и их имитация: куда движутся экономики прикаспийских стран”]

Koch, N. 2016. Why no “water wars” in Central Asia? Lessons learned from the Aral Sea disaster. PONARS Eurasia. Policy memo #410.

Koch, N. and A. Valiyev. 2015. The Sochi syndrome afoot in Central Asia: Spectacle and speculative building in Baku, Astana, and Ashgabat. PONARS Eurasia. Policy memo #371. [reprinted on openDemocracy as “The Sochi Syndrome”]

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 Asia and the Caucasus. 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. 2014. The Birth of Territory: Should Political Geographers Do Conceptual History? Dialogues in Human Geography 4(3): 348-351. [Text]

Koch, N. 2014. Grounding Central Asian geopolitics. Geopolitics 19: 227–233. [Text]

Mamadouh, V., E. dell’Agnese, T. Yamazaki, C. Flint, N. Koch, L. Muscarà, and J. Agnew. 2014. Reading John Agnew and Luca Muscarà’s Making Political Geography. Political Geography 38: 46-56. [Text]

Koch, N. 2013. Technologizing complacency: Spectacle, structural violence, and ‘living normally’ in a resource-rich state. Political Geography 37: A1-A2. [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.