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Personal profile

Research interests

Olu Jenzen is Reader in Media Studies and the Director of the Research Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender. Her research focuses on Digital Culture and Activism, and LGBTQ+ Media Cultures, in particular global visual activism and LGBTQ+ social media youth cultures. She is the co-editor of The Aesthetics of Protest: Global Visual Culture and Communication (AUP, 2020) and a special issue of the Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change, on 'Global Queer and Feminist Visual Activism’ (2022). She has published in journals such as Convergence; Gender, Place and Culture and Social Movement Studies. Advocating socially engaged, human-centred research across both digital media research and gender and sexuality research, her work with young people is participatory and embedded in community environments. She currently leads two projects, a pilot study on LGBTQ+ Digital Youth Work and the Gender Creativity and Community project, researching the impact of community belonging on gender-diverse young people’s wellbeing.

Scholarly biography

Olu Jenzen is Reader in Media Studies and the Director of the Research Centre for Transforming Sexuality and Gender, a centre of expertise on community-centred, applied, interdisciplinary gender and sexuality research, with a unique profile of social justice frameworks. 

Her theoretically rooted and empirically grounded research is cited across disciplines such as digital media studies, social movement studies, gender studies and digital health studies. Jenzen’s work on LGBTQ+ youth media cultures contributes to Internet Studies, Gender and Youth Studies, by introducing an ethnographic, human-centred and participant-led approach to studying young people’s digital cultures, a field otherwise dominated by researcher-led enquiries preoccupied with a small number of major social media platforms. This research seeks to nuance scholarship on marginalised young people’s digital lives beyond frames of ‘risk’. Further, challenging the notion of online platforms as gender non-biased by showing how algorithms are socially conditioned her research empirically demonstrates that young people’s consumption and production of digital and social media is significantly more diverse than research to date has recognised; and it challenges the dominant portrayal of transgender youth (see Jenzen 2017) as lacking agency and leading overwhelmingly negative lives (as either deviant youth or victims of minority stress).

Jenzen’s wider research on digital activism demonstrates the importance of aesthetics in contemporary political communication, opening up new ways of studying online activism hitherto primarily conceptualised as text-based. A key contribution to the visual turn in social media activism research has been the empirical establishment of the central role visual communication plays in digital activism (See The Aesthetics of Protest, 2020). Her work in this area uses mixed methods (combining big data with aesthetic visual analysis), to produce theory (conceptualising new forms of activist repertoires) as well as situated empirical knowledge (different activist uses of visual grammar). Her work on interdisciplinary feminist and queer visual activism, is exemplified by the 2022 Special Issue of the Journal of Cultural Analysis and Social Change, seeking to  foreground activism and scholarship from the Global South as well as her work on feminist killjoy stand-up comedy.

Dr Jenzen has an interdisciplinary background in Cultural Studies, Critical Theory and Film Studies. In addition to her central research themes outlined above she has published on themes such as queer methodology; otherness and visual culture; and popular culture heritage and community

Currently she is leading on a project on digital youth work, and working across two further projects on community support for LGBTQ+ youth.

Recent funded projects include an AHRC funded project exploring the potential for 5G for the creative industires in UK and Turkey, and a HEFCE funded project on LGBTQ+ youth and access to Higher Education. Further projects include an AHRC funded project on the Aesthetics of Protest;  a University funded social engagement award - Digital cultures of resistance: LGBTQ Social Media and Activism, about the activist lives of young people, and two further AHRC funded Early Career projects: The People’s Pier (as Principal Investigator) and a multi disciplinary project exploring the connections between young people and sporting celebrity. Her previous empirical work addresses social media outreach work with socially excluded and hard to reach LGBT youth (Jenzen and Karl 2014).

In 2022 she was a Visiting Researcher Fellow at the Department of Communication and Media, University of Lund, Sweden and in 2018 she was a Visiting Researcher Fellow at The Centre on Social Movement Studies, Scuola Normale Superiore in Italy.

Dr Jenzen was awarded a BA honours in Comparative Literature and Film Studies (1st class) in 1998 from the University of Lund, Sweden and an MA in Gender and Literature (Distinction with Prize) in 2001, also from Lund. Dr Jenzen has been very successful in obtaining competitive scholarships and in 2000 she won a visiting student scholarship to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She received her PhD in English Literature from Sussex in 2009 and joined The University of Brighton in December 2010, having taught Media and Cultural Studies, and Gender Studies at the University of Sussex since 2007.



Supervisory Interests

Dr Jenzen has supervised several doctoral students to completion across topics such as Queer visual activism; Queer filmmaking and learning disability; and Social media and LGBTQ+ mental health support. Currently she supervises projects on Feminist social media activism; LGBTQ+ kinship practices; Gender creative parenting; Gender diverse youth and citizen equality; Climate justice discourse in the media; Gypsy, Romany, Traveller trans and gender-diverse youth in the UK & participatory heritage as a vehicle for empowerment; and Heritage, participation and technology. She welcomes applications for projects interested in digital media and visual activism, activism and issues of gender and sexuality, and youth empowerment.

Approach to teaching

Dr Jenzen teaches digital and social media culture and activism, critical theories of media and culture, media and popular culture and media research methods. She has previously led the the Media Studies BA degree and the Creative Media MA. In 2013 she was awarded the Excellence in Facilitating and Empowering Learning Award. 

Education/Academic qualification

Master, First Class / Distinction with Prize Comparative Literature, Lund University

Bachelor, First Class Honours Comparative Literature and Film Studies, Lund University

PhD, English Lit, University of Sussex

External positions

Peer Reviewer, AHRC Peer Review College

1 Jan 020231 Dec 2023


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