Dr Alena Pfoser

MA University of Vienna, MA European University at St Petersburg, PhD Loughborough University

  • Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies

Alena joined the subject area in 2015 as a Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies. She studied sociology and Russian Studies in Vienna, Krasnodar and Saint Petersburg, before coming to Loughborough to conduct a PhD in Social Sciences (2010-2014). Alena worked in several national and international research projects in Austria and Germany, most recently as a Marie Curie Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig, Germany (2014-15).

Alena’s research focuses on memory, cultural identity and tourism, with a particular regional interest in the post-Soviet space.

She currently conducts research on the production and circulation of cultural memories in Russian tourism to post-Soviet cities. The research examines how tour guides and tourists construct local heritage and shared pasts and what consequences this has for present-day identities and relations. Research is being conducted in three different cities, Tallinn, Kyiv and Almaty, using a comparative ethnographic approach. Read more about this ESRC-funded research on the project website and the online journal EuropeNow.

Previous research has looked into processes of remembering and place-making in the context of border change. Alena’s PhD project examined the transformation of the Russian-Estonian border from an integrated borderland to an EU external border from a bottom-up perspective. Using ethnographic and narrative methods, it looked at how ‘ordinary’ people belonging to different ethnic groups and generations negotiate identity and place in relation to polarised official discourses. The research drew attention to the ‘messy’ realities of border change on the ground and argued for paying more attention to the role of memory in the study of borders and socio-political change. Key results have been published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration StudiesEuropean Urban and Regional StudiesEast European Politics & Societies and Nationalities Papers.

Alena has a strong interest in engaging with external audiences through art collaborations. Together with the visual artist Eva Engelbert, Alena curated a multimedia exhibition (‘Welcome to European Union’) drawing on her research, which was exhibited in art galleries in Vienna, Salzburg and Loughborough and was awarded a price for interdisciplinarity by the Austrian Federal Chancellery in 2014. Together with Ele Belfiore, Alena represented Loughborough University as a Tate Exchange associate and was involved in “Who are we?”, a six-day cross platform event at the Tate in March 2017.

Major funded research projects and fellowships  

2019-2021: Tourism as memory-making: heritage and memory wars in post-Soviet cities, ESRC New Investigator Grant (PI)
2015: Marie Curie Experienced Researcher, ITN RegPol2 Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe, Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig
2010-2014: Borderland memories: the remaking of the Russian-Estonian frontier, PhD studentship, Loughborough University

Alena teaches on communication and cultural theory, creative industries and research methods (SSB301 Media, Identity and Inequality, SSB302 Researching Communications, SSA306 Media Landscapes, LLP405 Tourism and Heritage Industries).

Alena is happy to supervise research students in the fields of memory and heritage; nationalism, national identities and ethnic relations; border studies; and post-socialism.

Current postgraduate research students

  • Jin Dai (2018-) "Between Official and Personal Memory: Remembering Han Migration to Xinyang". Co-supervised by Sabina Mihelj.
  • Cuomo Zhaxi (2016-): "Tibetan Identity, Chinese Nationalism and Chinese State Media." Co-supervised by Thoralf Klein.

Recent postgraduate research students

  • Gennaro Errichiello (2018) "Dubai as a ‘transit lounge’. Migration, temporariness and ‘flexible belonging’ within the Pakistani community." Co-supervised by Line Nyhagen.
  • Pfoser, A and de Jong, S (forthcoming) ‘I’m not being paid for this conversation’: uncovering the challenges of artist-academic collaborations in the neoliberal institution. International Journal of Cultural Studies.
  • Pfoser, A and Keightley, E (2019) Tourism and the dynamics of transnational mnemonic encounters. Memory Studies Online First DOI 10.1177/1750698019856059
  • Pfoser, A (2018) Narratives of peripheralisation: place, agency and generational cohorts in post-industrial Estonia European Urban and Regional Studies 25(4): 391-404
  • Pfoser, A (2017) Tourism and transnational memory formation in Tallinn, Estonia. EuropeNow: Council for European Studies.
  • Pfoser, A. (2017) Nested peripheralisation: the remaking of the East-West border in the Russian-Estonian borderland. East European Politics and Societies 31(1): 26-43.
  • Pfoser, A. (2015) Between security and mobility: negotiating a hardening border regime in the Russian-Estonian borderland. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41(10): 1684-1702.
  • Pfoser, A. (2014) Between Russia and Estonia: narratives of place in a new borderland. Nationalities Papers 42(2): 269-285.
  • Pfoser, A. (2011). “…actually we are deeply rooted in Austria”: national identity constructions and historical perceptions of young people with migration background in Austria. In: Elisabeth Boesen et al. (eds.), Grand Narratives and Peripherial Memories. Public and Private Forms of Experiencing and Narrating the Past. Bielefeld: Transcript, pp.239-257.