Dr Alena Pfoser

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

  • Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies
  • PGT Programme Leader (Communication & Media)

Alena studied sociology and Russian and Eurasian Studies in Vienna, Krasnodar and Saint Petersburg, before coming to Loughborough to conduct a PhD in Social Sciences (2010-2014). She worked in several national and international research projects in Austria and Germany, including as a Marie Curie Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography in Leipzig, Germany (2014-15). She joined the division as a Lecturer in Communication and Media Studies in 2015, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2020.  

Alena currently acts as the Programme Leader for the PGT programmes in Media and Communication. Since 2022, she also leads the Research Challenge “Hidden voices, contested pasts” in the School of Social Sciences and Humanities that seeks to encourage cross-disciplinary exchange and collaboration.  

Alena’s research focuses on cultural memory, heritage and identity in the transnational arena. She is particularly interested in memory and heritage in contested settings, bottom-up approaches to nationalism and international relations, and migration and cultural belonging. With a background in Russian and Eurasian Studies, she has a particular interest in post-socialist cultures and societies.

Alena has recently completed a research project on the production of cultural memories in Russian tourism to post-Soviet cities, funded by an ESRC New Investigator Grant (PI 2019-2022). The project examined how tour guides and tourists construct local heritage and and remember tsarist and socialist pasts, and what consequences this has for present-day identities and international relations. She is currently working on a book, entitled “Tourism as memory-making: Russian tourism in the shadow of empire” (under contract with Palgrave’s Memory Studies Series, expected 2024) on the project.

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.

Alena is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She teaches UG and PGT core modules in Media and Communication including communication and cultural theory, creative industries, research methods and study skills including Foundations in Communication and Media Studies, Media Landscapes, Media, Identity and Inequality, Researching Communications, Understanding Media Debates. 

Alena welcomes applications for supervision in areas including memory and heritage studies; nationalism, national identities and ethnic relations; tourism industries; post-socialist media and culture; migration and critical border studies.

Current postgraduate research students

  • Yanning Chen (2020-) Mnemonic Labour in Cultural Consumption: A Case Study of Old Mobile Phones (with Emily Keightley)
  • Brigita Valantinaviciute (2021-) Television and National Remembering in a Time of Crisis: A Multiscalar Approach (with Emily Keightley)
  • Qianfei Su (2022) Interaction from the Perspective of Dramaturgy: A Comparative Study of Rural Tourism in China and the UK (with Thomas Thurnell-Read)

Recent postgraduate research students

  • Jin Dai (2023) Between Official and Personal Memory: Remembering Han Migration to Xinyang (with Sabina Mihelj)
  • Cuomo Zhaxi (202): Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion: Media Representation of Tibetans on China Central Television and its Audience Reception (with Thoralf Klein)
  • Gennaro Errichiello (2018) Dubai as a ‘transit lounge’: migration, temporariness and ‘flexible belonging’ within the Pakistani community (with Line Nyhagen)