Research Themes

Merje Kuus is a political geographer who investigates the workings of expertise in policy-making processes. She examines how national and transnational institutions, such as government agencies, international organizations, or civil society groups, know what they know, how they have come to know what they know, and how they persuade themselves and others that this is so. Her current work examines diplomatic practices in Europe and the Arctic, but this empirical focus undergirds a broader interest in knowledge and power in bureaucratic settings.

Dr. Kuus is the author of Geopolitics and Expertise: Knowledge and Authority in European Diplomacy (Wiley Blackwell, 2014), Geopolitics Reframed: Security and Identity in Europe’s Eastern Enlargement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), and numerous articles in geographic, international relations, and European studies journals. She is also a co-editor of the Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics (Ashgate, 2013). Dr. Kuus has been the recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship and the Killam Fellowship as well as individual research grants from the United States Institute of Peace, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Soros Foundation, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, among other bodies.

The list below highlights the key themes within that work. Bibliographic information on publications, including links to the webpages of the books, is listed under the tab ‘Publications’ above.

Policy processes and the politics of expertise

Policy impinges on all aspects of self and society. It shapes not just societal outcomes but, more importantly, the processes that produce these outcomes. To study policy is to investigate a dynamic and unpredictable process that transgresses the convenient distinctions between state and non-state actors. Empirically, my research focuses on the European Union as a key power center in today’s world. Any attempt to understand the diffuse operation of power in the international sphere must closely consider the EU in its ambiguously transnational operation.

Geopolitics, security, and diplomacy

This strand in my research focuses on the geographical assumptions and definitions that underpin international politics in general and diplomatic negotiation in particular. These assumptions are central to the processes by which complex political issues come to be defined and managed in a particular manner. Empirically, my current work focuses on transnational diplomatic practices in the European Union. This example anchors a broader argument about knowledge and authority in bureaucratic settings.

Arctic governance

The Arctic is a scene of hot diplomatic activity as many state and non-state actors seek to influence governance processes there. A new strand in my research focuses on regulatory power and regulatory competition in the Arctic. It examines, in particular, the efforts of China and the European Union to increase their influence in Arctic governance. My effort is to advance our understanding of the emerging inter-national and trans-national regulatory regimes in the Arctic.

Editorial or Advisory Board service


European Urban and Regional Studies


The Hague Journal of Diplomacy


Journal of International Relations and Development


New Perspectives:  Interdisciplinary Journal of Central & Eastern European Politics and International Relations


Geography Compass
(Political Geography section)