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 is about nation branding, a relatively recent approach to national reputation management that has gained much popularity worldwide. Many countries have invested time, effort and financial resources into re-defining their external images and internal identities through nation branding. The concept itself has enjoyed ample academic attention, especially by scholars in the disciplines of business and urban geography studies. As a result, a dominant view of nation branding has formed that nation branding is an externally-oriented, business-derived, and somewhat superficial undertaking aimed at increasing the country’s competitive advantage in the global marketplace. In my thesis, I challenge this dominant view by examining how nation branding operates in a non-democratic context on the example of post-2014 military-ruled Thailand. I argue that nation branding is a strategy for political legitimation that is primarily aimed at changing the social attitudes and behaviours of the nation’s citizens through the creation and dissemination of strategic national myths. My overall objective is to provide a holistic yet critical account of nation branding as a complex 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 has been published with the SSCI-listed Asian Studies Review journal.

My other research work adresses the issues of electoral violence and its prevention. 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 2019 general election in Thailand.

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, global and domestic political communication, 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)