Departmental Research Seminars via Zoom on Political Geography
Via Zoom: link will be provided upon successful registration
[ 09:30 - 10:15 ]
Dr. Ali HAMDAN
Fellow (non-Resident), Elliott School’s Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University and Visiting lecturer, Department of Geography at University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Ali Hamdan is a political geographer who studies the transnational dynamics of contemporary civil wars, with a regional focus in the Middle East. His research examines the role of refugees in shaping the exiled opposition movement to the Assad regime amidst Syria’s ongoing civil war. His work has been published in Geopolitics, Political Geography, International Journal of Middle East Studies, and Jadaliyya, among others. Dr. Hamdan received his PhD in Geography from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and his bachelors from Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. He is currently a Fellow (Non-Resident) with the Elliott School’s Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, as well as a visiting lecturer in the Department of Geography at UCLA.
Refugee Geopolitics in Syria’s Borderlands
The conflict in Syria has been described as experiencing one of the most brutal civil wars in recent memory. At the same time, it bears the hallmarks of a deeply “internationalized” conflict, raising questions about the role of transnational forces in shaping its structural dynamics. This presentation examines how different actors draw on transnational networks to shape the outcomes of the war, specifically with respect to the geographies of “wartime governance.” Wartime governance has been acknowledged by many scholars to be an important process of civil wars, and yet it is frequently conceptualized as a “subnational” or “local” process. In the case of Syria, I argue that a particular network of transnational actors produced distinctly transnational spaces in Syria’s Northwest, who do the work of linking the local politics of wartime governance into the global geopolitics surrounding Syria’s conflict. Understanding these kind of actors and their capacity to affect the outcomes of conflicts represents an important dimension of the evolving geographies of war.
[ 10:45 - 11:30 ]
Dr. Dimitar ANGUELOV
Post-doctoral fellow at University of British Columbia, Canada
Dimitar Anguelov is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia. His broad research and teaching interests are in the geographical political economy of development, sustainability and finance, with a focus on cities of the Global South. His research has been published in Area Development and Policy, Urban Studies and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Dimitar completed his Ph.D. in Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, examining the geopolitical-economy of infrastructure financing in (Jakarta) Indonesia, where Western market-democracies and China compete for influence as they advance alternative market-based and state-led development models. Currently, Dimitar is researching how green infrastructure and green finance are shaping sustainability transitions, their contested governance and their development impacts in East and Southeast Asia. As a collaborator on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded project, he is also investigating the political and economic transformations of China’s Greater Bay Area.
Financializing urban infrastructure in Jakarta: Speculative State-Spaces and the Public-Public Partnership
Since 2008, creditor states and development banks with geopolitical and geoeconomic interests have advanced competing market-based and state-led models to finance and develop infrastructure, presented as panacea for economic development. Mega city-regions in the global South are at the center of this infrastructure fix: facing challenges posed by rapid urbanization, they have turned to infrastructural solutions, steeped in speculative ‘global-city’ imaginaries and national developmental aspirations, in order to unclog catch-up growth. In Jakarta, Indonesia, I examine the coming together of these models, visions and practices as they articulate with the political-economies of city and state, and their path-dependent restructuring precipitated by the speculative 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. I show how political interests and developmental objectives of state and city governments are entangled with the speculative capital accumulation strategies of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), shaping the speculative state-space of the post-colonial metropolis. With a number of new rail transit projects in the city-region driving a boom in Transit-Oriented Development, SOEs speculate on market conditions and the ‘world-class city’ dreams of middle-class residents to leverage their property assets. In the territorially and institutionally fragmented landscape of metropolitan Jakarta this financial speculation is equally premised on political speculation around the planning and execution of the projects. I examine how these strategies, practices and tensions come together to produce innovative governance arrangements in the provision and management of urban transit infrastructure through the Public-Public Partnership.
[ 12:00 - 12:45 ]
Dr. Wesley ATTEWELL
Visiting Scholar at the Asian / Pacific / American Institute, New York University, USA
Wesley Attewell completed his PhD in Geography at the University of British Columbia. He has since held postdoctoral positions at the University of Toronto and New York University. Currently, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.
As a geographer of imperialism, decolonization, and diaspora, Wesley studies the global landscapes of U.S. empire-building from the Cold War into the present. His first book, Developing Violence: Disassembling the USAID Complex in Afghanistan is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press. It has been reviewed as a rich account of how the US transformed post-1945 Afghanistan into a key site for reimagining development into a liberal form of counterinsurgency. Wesley is currently working on a second book, titled The Lifelines of Empire: Logistical Life in the Decolonizing Pacific. It maps the transpacific logistics infrastructures and the racialized labour regimes that the US assembled to supply its war in Vietnam.
The Lifelines of Empire: Logistical Life in the Decolonizing Pacific
In this seminar, I map the logistical geographies of US empire-building across the decolonizing Pacific. I pay particular attention to the global logistics infrastructures that the US assembled to supply its war in Vietnam. In so doing, I track the evolution of modern logistics management into a vital infrastructure of just-in-time imperialism. By just-in-time imperialism, I mean the flexible forms of war-making that captured the imagination of the US military, which became obsessed with keeping inventory in motion along transpacific supply chains to ensure the comfort of front-line soldiers.
While just-in-time imperialism in Vietnam is famously associated with the rise of transportation technologies such as the container, I focus on another side of imperial logistics: the everyday labouring encounters that unfolded between Asian migrant workers and US logistical managers. Over the course of the war, key nodes in US imperial supply chains – including ports such as Cam Ranh Bay and bases such as Long Binh – doubled as lifelines for the occupation, as well as fraught terrains of labour unrest. To illustrate this point, I show how two groups of Asian logistics labour endured and resisted the everyday violences of just-in-time imperialism: first, the Vietnamese, South Korean, and Filipinx nationals that carried out the hum-drum work of goods distribution; and second, the Vietnamese and Cambodian women that cooked and cleaned for soldiers across the war zone. What these stories of survival and making do ultimately open up, I argue, are intellectual and political spaces for thinking logistics and racial capitalism differently.
[ 14:30 - 15:15 ]
Dr. Chun Kai LEUNG
Associate in Research, Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, USA
Dr. CK Leung is a political geographer of energy resources, focusing on China’s energy security, geopolitics, and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He is Associate in Research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and Guest Fellow at HKBU David C. Lam Institute of East-West Studies. Previously, Dr. Leung worked for Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, KCL Department of War Studies, CUHK Master of Global Political Economy (MGPE) program, and the Consulate General of Kazakhstan to HKSAR. He is Ph.D. in Geography at Durham University, with post-doctoral training with the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Leung was also Visiting Scholar at Oxford University’s China Center. His work appears in Applied Energy, Energy Policy, Energy Reports, Eurasian Geography and Economics, Journal of East-West Business, OPEC Energy Review, Economics Bulletin, and The Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law.
Making Natural Gas Work for China’s Sustainable Future?
A Geographical Political Economy (GPE) Analysis
The multi-month power shortage that hit over 20 Chinese provinces in 2021—partly caused by the official coal reduction policy—reflects the sheer challenge of creating a secure and sustainable energy system. While the Chinese leaders now vow to mitigate urban air pollution and achieve carbon-neutral, what perplexes them is the inconvenient truth that an environmentally friendly energy system often performs poorly in energy security. In this context, natural gas—the cleaner form of fossil fuels—is crucial to China’s decarbonization and smog control strategy. It not only offers energy services more stable than renewable energies (RE) but, in fact, also serves as the critical “spinning-reserve” fuel for those RE-rich electric grids. Following the rising paradigm of the “geographical political economy” (GPE) in energy research, and by employing the global production networks (GPN) framework, this study unpacks the materiality-territoriality of natural gas and the multi-scalar geopolitics of China’s gas industry. We argue that the success of China’s dual quests for “net-zero” emissions and energy security depends on the uninterrupted gas flow from both domestic and foreign sources—especially the neighboring BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) countries. We conclude that securing China’s gas supply chains requires a balanced strategy consisting of technological innovation, infrastructure financing, market liberalization, resource diplomacy, and soft power management.