Mr Leonhardt Van Efferink

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Personal profile



After obtaining a Master's degree in Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 1997, I worked as (senior) Country Risk Analyst/Policy Adviser with three banks and the Dutch Ministry of Finance.


After becoming increasingly interested in geopolitics, I decided to take a sabbatical in 2009 to do a Master's in this field at King's College London. A year later, I started with my PhD with Professor of Geopolitics Klaus Dodds at Royal Holloway (University of London). My second supervisor is Dr Alasdair Pinkerton.


Abstract of my PhD

The thesis explores the geopolitical imaginations of Afghanistan within major political parties in Germany and the influential news magazine Der Spiegel. It seeks to identify assumptions regarding the territory, identity, sovereignty and security of Afghanistan and Germany in parliamentary speeches of five political parties and on magazine covers.
Germany was the third-largest contributor to the multilateral military mission in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014. Thousands of German troops and police officers were stationed in this state as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The German participation in ISAF was unprecedented and resulted in nearly 60 deaths among German soldiers. Popular and practical geopolitics in Germany were divided about the state’s role in the ‘War on Terror’, reflecting a historically complicated relationship to war and violence.
To study these assumptions, the thesis develops a framework that analyses the forms, variability and changing nature of geopolitical imaginations. The framework takes a mixed methods approach and draws on earlier work in critical geopolitics, political geography, IR and media studies. It enables the identification, interpretation and analysis of geopolitical frames in textual, visual and multi-modal representations. The framework raises awareness of the role of knowledge and assumptions in scholarly interpretations of geopolitical representations. This adds to methodological rigour and analytical transparency. Such transparency further opens new opportunities for a better structured dialogue about meaning-making processes that involve space and power.
The study of parliamentary speeches and Der Spiegel covers contributes to academic debates on German’s foreign policy. Moreover, the analysis of how German political parties and the printed press made sense of the ‘War on Terror’ generates a deeper understanding of the critical geopolitics of Afghanistan. By way of conclusion, the thesis offers methodological and empirical contributions to the manner in which scholars engage with representations of states and Germany in particular.


PhD funding


The PhD research is funded by:


  • Royal Holloway, University of London (tuition fee waiver, conference grants, skills training grant)
  • Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD; field work grant)
  • Die Vereinigung von Freunden und Förderern der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (field work grant)


Academic publications


The Geographical Journal published my commentary "Polar Partners or Poles Apart? On the discourses of two US think tanks on Russia's presence in the ‘High North’" in 2012. The article reflects my strong interest in raising awareness of the role of representations in foreign policy. This explains why my PhD is written from a critical geopolitical perspective. 


I am further author of "Geopolitics" in the Oxford Bibliographies Online. It contains reviews of over 140 books, articles and journals. Oxford University Press published my last update in January 2016. The contribution offers nine thematic sections.


Moreover, I am Founding Editor of the ExploringGeopolitics website that offers more than 200 contributions by 130 scholars from 30 countries. The website seeks to cover the ground between academic journals and mass media and takes a broad approach towards geopolitics.


My work as lecturer and trainer

In 2012, I founded GeoMeans Analytical Skills Development. The company offers workshops, lectures and courses in country risk, geopolitics and media representations. As Founding Director of GeoMeans, I help a wide variety of organsations in the private, public and nonprofit sector acquire skills in these fields.


My activities further include guest lectures and talks at universities in various countries. I am also course leader of six modules about country risk, geopolitics and media representations at Maastricht Summer School.

If you have any questions about country risk, geopolitics and media representations, please contact me via e-mail or LinkedIn

Educational background

-MA Geopolitics, Territory and Security, King's College London (2010)

-BSc+MSc Financial Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam (1997)

Research interests

Critical Geopolitics, National Identity, Geopolitical Imaginations, Germany, Afghanistan, Media Studies, Media Representations Analysis, Visual Analysis, Social Semiotics, Critical Discourse Analysis, Content Analysis, Framing Analysis, Newspapers, Magazines, Television, Political Speeches


-Lecturer/Guest Lecturer/Thesis Supervisor, University van Amsterdam

-Summer School Course Leader/Guest Lecturer/Tutor, Maastricht University


Since 2010, I have given lectures, talks, workshops and courses on the following universities:

  1. Bremen Universität (D)
  2. Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam (NL)
  3. Helmut Schmidt Universität-Hamburg (D)
  4. Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (D)
  5. Royal Holloway (University of London, UK)
  6. Universiteit van Amsterdam (NL)
  7. Universiteit van Maastricht (NL)
  8. University of Cambridge (UK)
  9. University of Edinburgh (UK)
  10. University of Oxford (UK)
  11. University of Reading (UK)
  12. University of Warwick (UK)


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