Author-Critic Forum: The Geopolitics of Spectacle: Space, Synecdoche, and the New Capitals of Asia
Sarah Tynen (University of Colorado-Boulder)
Sarah Tynen
Alcoa Room
Start time:
26 October, 2018 at 14:15
Session slots:


In her new book, The Geopolitics of Spectacle: Space, Synecdoche, and the New Capitals of Asia (Cornell University Press 2018), Natalie Koch considers how autocratic rulers use "spectacular" projects to shape state-society relations. Koch uses Astana in Kazakhstan to exemplify her argument, comparing that spectacular city with others from resource-rich, nondemocratic nations in central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Southeast Asia. The Geopolitics of Spectacle draws new political-geographic lessons and shows that these spectacles can be understood only from multiple viewpoints, sites, and temporalities. So rather than the standard approach to spectacle-focusing on the project itself-she considers the unspectacular "others." The contrasting views of those from the poorest regions toward these new national capitals help her develop a geographic approach to spectacle. Koch explicitly theorizes spectacle geographically and in so doing extends the analysis of governmentality into new empirical and theoretical terrain. With cases ranging from Azerbaijan to Qatar and Myanmar, combined with an analysis of views of Kazakhstan's new capital from the poverty-stricken Aral Sea region of Kazakhstan, Koch's book engages interdisciplinary scholarship in human geography, anthropology, sociology, urban studies, political science, international affairs, while pushing Central Asian studies into new "inter-Asian" comparative terrain. The critics for this forum include scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including geography, political science, sociology, and architecture and urban development, and with extensive experience conducting research in Central Asia and the Caucasus: Chair Edward Schatz Associate Professor Department of Political Science Chair, University of Toronto at Mississauga Critics Alexander C. Diener Associate Professor Department of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences University of Kansas Eric McGlinchey Associate Professor Department of Political Science George Mason University Diana Kudaibergenova Postdoctoral Fellow Department of Sociology of Law Lund University Suzy Harris-Brandts PhD Candidate, City Design + Development /International Development Group Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning