Petra Desatova

Petra Desatova


I am a researcher with a strong empirical focus working on topics in the fields of comparative politics and international relations. I have a regional specialisation on Southeast Asia with a focus on Thailand. I have presented my research at academic conferences in Thailand, Europe, the UK and the US and briefed a team of researchers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I have also given a media interview on the topic of my doctoral research to Prachatai English, an online Thai newspaper.

I have completed a BA in International Relations and Thai and Southeast Asia Studies (first class with a distinction in spoken Thai) and an MA in Professional Language and Intercultural Studies (distinction), both at the University of Leeds. Before staring my PhD in October 2015, I worked in non-governmental (Germany), corporate (UK) and higher education (UK) sectors. During my studies, I received a number of awards in recognition of my academic achievements: University of Leeds Crabtree Award (2008) and Don Rimmington Prize (2012), and the Royal Thai Embassy’s Lanna (2010) and Saranrom Awards (2013). I was also awarded Santander Scholarship (2012-13) towards my MA and the University of Leeds 110th Anniversary Scholarship (2015-2018) towards my PhD studies.

Research interests

My doctoral research examines the politics of nation branding by using post-2014 Thailand as its main case study. My analysis of nation branding is framed by the following research question: ‘What are the political aims behind the states’ use of nation branding?’ This question assumes that nation branding is first and foremost a political act. Despite the general tendency of academic literature to assume that states take up nation branding as a result of outside pressures (such as economic globalisation), I believe that the decision to brand is largely homegrown. It is the national governments consisting of competing interests and agencies that usually make the decision whether to brand or not, and for what purposes. As such, I argue that nation branding is a strategy for political legitimation that is primarily aimed at changing the social attitudes and behaviour of citizens through the creation and dissemination of strategic national myths. The overall objective of my thesis is to provide a holistic yet critical account of nation branding as a political phenomenon that can provide a useful methodological framework for future comparative studies of nation branding in non-democratic contexts. A journal article based on my doctoral research is pending publication with the SSCI-listed Asian Studies Review journal.

My other research work adresses the issues of electoral violence and its prevention in the Thai context. Together with Prof Duncan McCargo (PI) and Dr Saowanee T. Alexander (University of Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand), I am working on a research project funded by the United States Institute of Peace to examine peace messaging in the upcoming Thai election.

Besides this, I also have an interest in other topics and research areas such as political branding/marketing, governance, forms and techniques of state power, authoritarianism and its resilience, nationalism, national identity, and Southeast Asian politics.


  • BA International Relations and Thai and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Leeds (Fist class)
  • MA Professional Language and Intercultural Studies, University of Leeds (Distinction)