Rebecca Iszatt


ESRC-funded PhD candidate at the University of Leeds, researching Thai national identity and the impact of social media on Thai society.

2019: AHRC Fellow at the Kluge Center, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).

My PhD project considers how the framework of Thai national identity – “Thainess” – that props up the Thai state is being reshaped by non-state groups via Facebook.

My work mobilises social semiotic multimodality to inform its theoretical and methodological frameworks, which is to say that “Thainess” as discourse is understood in my work as being multimodally entextualised in digital interactions (e.g. Facebook posts) and as being subject to both codified and non-codified mechanisms of social regulation.

I am interested in understanding “Thainess” as much on (meta)ethical terms as on identity terms. I query how “Thainess,” in the state’s iteration, serves to constitute and nurture a dutiful and obedient society, wherein stability and order legitimise, even necessitate, authoritarian rule; hence, the unyielding success of military regimes, including that of the current government. The role of non-state actors organising on social media to intervene in the state’s “Thainess” has yet been overlooked, but I argue that we cannot understand the contemporary meaning and function of "Thainess," as well as its links to authoritarianism, without attending to its digital face and how it is reproduced, or challenged, outside of the institutions that it was built to serve.

I have taught undergraduate Thai language modules and have also worked as a freelance specialist in Thai language/culture.

Research interests

  • Thai politics & digital culture

  • Social semiotics & (multimodal) discourse analysis

  • Moral philosophy & moral psychology

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for World Literatures