Dr Jenifer Chao

Job: Associate Professor Research/Reader

Faculty: Computing, Engineering and Media

School/department: Leicester Media School

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH, United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)116 257 7322

E: jenifer.chao2@dmu.ac.uk

W: http://china-art-nationbranding.org


Personal profile

I specialize in global visual cultures, focusing on the mechanisms of visuality  – its logic, techniques and power – embedded within international politics. These visualities are not bound by geography, neither are they restricted by genres; they encompass multiple geopolitical contexts and expressions: from the catastrophe aesthetic of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America (my monograph) to Chinese contemporary art that is mobilized for nation branding (an AHRC grant); from the eco-cosmopolitanism of an art biennial on climate change to the visualization of race (articles). These are some of the projects that have steered my investigations into the visual practices of our contemporary culture. This approach unites several disciplines: contemporary art, media studies and international relations. Increasingly, I have also examined the instrumentalization of such visual developments through the lens of political economy, locating their roles in the creative industry.  

I am the PI of an AHRC research grant (AH/T006706/1), “Art Diplomacy and Nation Branding: The Visual Politics of Reinventing China”. This project investigates the multiple ways that China is regenerating its global media image and its nation brand through the soft power of Chinese contemporary art.

Research group affiliations

Photographic History Research Centre, Institute of Creative Technologies

Publications and outputs

Chao, Jenifer and Browning, Christopher S. (2023) China's Cautious 'Facetuning': The Art of Cultural Diplomacy and Nation Branding. Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 10.3: 255-265, https://doi.org/10.1386/jcca_00084_2


Chao, Jenifer (2022) The Visual Politics of Brand China: Exceptional History and Speculative Future. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, online first https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41254-022-00270-6 or for PDF https://rdcu.be/cUFsQ


Chao, Jenifer and Kompatsiaris, Panos (2020) Curating Climate Change: The Taipei Biennial as an Environmental Problem Solver. Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, 7.1: 7-26. https://doi.org/10.1386/jcca_00017_1

Chao, Jenifer (2019) China's Ancient Past in Its Contemporary Art: On the Politics of Time and Nation Branding at the Venice Biennale. Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art 6.2 &3: 321-341.  https://doi.org/10.1386/jcca_00010_1

Chao, Jenifer (2018) Cultural Resistance, 9/11 and the War on Terror: Sensible Interventions. London: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Cultural-Resistance-9-11-and-the-War-on-Terror-Sensible-Interventions/Chao/p/book/9781138710887

Chao, Jenifer (2018) Faces of the Enemy: Visualising the Taliban in a Photography Studio. Media, War & Conflict 12.1:30-49.  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1750635217714015

Chao, Jenifer (2016) The Ignorant Hip-Hop Artist? Political Rap Encounters Jacques Rancière. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 30.6: 754-763.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2016.1231792

Chao, Jenifer (2015) Oppositional Banality: Watching Ordinary Muslims in Little Mosque on the Prairie. NECSUS European Journal of Media Studies 4.1: 27-45. http://dx.doi.org/10.5117/NECSUS2015.1.CHAO

Research interests/expertise

  • Politics & aesthetics 
  • Cultural resistance
  • Nation branding
  • (Chinese) Nationalism and national identity
  • Visual culture (photography and photojournalism)
  • Cultural and critical theories (Rancière, Badiou)
  • 9/11 and the war on terror

Areas of teaching

Third-year Dissertation 

Visual Studies, Lifestyle Journalism

Photography and Global Conflicts 


PhD in Cultural Analysis
Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

MA in English Language and Culture
Cum laude
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands 

BA in International Relations
University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Courses taught

JOUR 2006 & JOUR 3000


Membership of external committees

External Reviewer for the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, 2023- present

Membership of professional associations and societies

Research Associate, Centre for Chinese Visual Arts, Birmingham City University

Art and Politics Specialist Group of the UK Political Studies Association and British International Studies Association 

Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis

Current research students

PhD Supervision 

Kiran Khan (2021-2025), "Assessing the Impact of South Asian Broadcasting on British Asian Communities in the Midlands using the Anita Anand Archives", holder of  Midlands4Cities DTP scholarship (second supervisor)


Jaime Marie Davis (2020-23), "Co-citizenship and Curatorial Practices in the Delivery of News and Visual Journalism", winner of DMU PhD scholarship

Yu Sui (2017-2022), "Evolutions of Rumours in Chinese Social Media", (second supervisor)

Viva Examination

Quan Liu (2022), "Inventing and Manufacturing Chineseness in the Local, National, and Transnational Context: Landscape Performing Arts and the Production of National Identity", University of Liverpool

Externally funded research grants information

PI of AHRC research grant, AH/T006706/1, 2020-2023. "Art Diplomacy and Nation Branding: The Visual Politics of Reinventing China".

This project investigates how China is regenerating its global media image and its nation brand through the soft power of Chinese contemporary art. It conceptualizes Chinese art beyond its traditional art historical concerns and aesthetic criticality, and envisions it, instead, within the forces of political economy, thus accentuating its intricate functions at the intersection of diplomacy, reputation control and sustainable growth. This approach gives primacy to visual culture's roles within the creative industries in China and in the UK.

Internally funded research project information

PI of Creative and Heritage Industries Research Fund, 2022. "The Belt and Road Effect: China's Cultural Diplomacy and the Creative Arts".

This project documents the expansion of creative arts under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is the country’s massive revitalisation of the ancient Silk Roads.

Professional esteem indicators

AHRC’s Engaging with Government Programme, 2021

DMU Vice-Chancellor’s Future Research Leaders Programme, 2017-2018