Leanne Dawson


Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile



Dr. Leanne Dawson is Senior Lecturer in both Film Studies and German Studies at the University of Edinburgh, although as a theorist of gender, sexuality, and socio-economic position and class, her interdisciplinary, innovative, and impactful research examines a range of arts including: screen studies; literature; theatre; performance art; archives; and festivals, across European, Asian, and North American cultures. 

She currently holds a prestigious AHRC Research Leader Fellowship (Early Career, until 2022), for which she is writing a monograph theorising the intersection of LGBTQI+ and working-class representation on British screens (film, television, online)  as well as working with festivals and audiences in order to make film and arts events more inclusive and accessible. She brought in over £190,000 of funding alone for this project and has attracted around half a million pounds of funding during her career.  

Her work is also highly attractive to audiences beyond the academy, which organically led to a sole-authored Impact Case Study for the next REF. She was the first Chair of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival; co-founded the Queer Screens Network; is a consultant and advisor to a range of artists and organisations; makes film; curates film for independent cinemas; is an invited jury member for international film festivals; and is frequently asked to share her academic expertise in the media (from small independent publications and films to Harper’s Bazaar and the BBC).



Dr Dawson was raised in poverty in North East England. Although no one in her family household remained in education beyond the age of 16, she achieved top grades in her A Levels while simultaneously training as a Beauty Therapist and working as a waitress. She then completed three degrees (AHRC fully-funded PhD, 2009; AHRB fully-funded MA with Distinction in European Cultures, 2005; BA Hons First Class with Distinction in French and German Studies, 2004) at the University of Manchester, where she was awarded the Swiss Consulate Prize as best student in her cohort. 

After completing her PhD, Dr Dawson worked as a Teaching Fellow at the universities of Swansea and Leeds, before joining the University of Edinburgh as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in European Culture. Her exceptional range of teaching, supervision, administration, and research led, in the first year of what should have been a two year fixed-term post, to the creation of a Lectureship especially for her.


Research Interests

Dr. Dawson’s interdisciplinary research has four primary strands:

  • LGBTQI+ representation on page, stage, and screen, with much of this work on 'passing', lesbian representation, and queer femininities;
  • Queer spaces, including LGBTQI+ film festivals and archives, and audiences/people who use them; 
  • Working-class representation in film, television, online;
  • Acessibility, equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in film and the arts.

Dr Dawson’s research spans culture, identity, and politics to consider questions of representation, inclusion, and power. She examines film and screen studies, literature, theatre, performance art, archives, and festivals across European, Asian, and North American cultures. Most of her work is textual analysis, although her other methodologies include qualitative and quantitative approaches, and historical analyses in order to theorise gender, sexuality, and class/socio-economic position. Her current research projects are:

  • an AHRC-funded monograph (Poor Queers), which explores the intersection of LGBTQI+ and working-class identities on British screens;
  • finalising a monograph on queer identities on the German screen from the 1930s to the present day (From Girls in Uniform to Men in Drag: Queering Femininity on the German Screen and Beyond);  
  • working with a range of LGBTQI+ film festivals, from highly commercially to DIY/grass roots, exploring working-class inclusion in film and arts events offscreen and working-class attitudes to queer and working-class representation oscreen, as part of her AHRC-funded project, to create a range of publications, including best practice documents;
  • ‘Crisis-Connection-Culture: Alternative Responses to COVID-19’. She conceived of and is editing this online special journal issue (it seems to be the first COVID-19-related call for papers/edited publication in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences) about visual culture in times of COVID-19, encompassing accessible academic work, creative writing, film etc, in order to raise funds for those most in need, including foodbanks.

In the near future, she will:

  • co-edit a journal special issue on working-class visual culture;
  • work on a queer pregnancy and parenting project;
  • and collaborate with a team of academics and filmmakers on a multi-stranded project on global transgender film.

Her publications include: books, Queering German Culture (2018) and Queer European Cinema: Queering Cinematic Time and Space (2017); edited special journal issues, Crisis - Connection - Culture: Alternative Responses to Covid-19 (2020); Queer/ing Film Festivals (2018), Queer European Cinema (2016), The Other: Gender, Sexuality and Ethnicity in European Cinema and Beyond (2014); and a range of articles and chapters considering a spectrum of queer representation, from monstrosity to normalization.

Examples of her academic articles and chapters include: ‘Class, Sexuality, and Queer Time in Blue is the Warmest Colour’ (forthcoming, 2021); 'Culture in Crisis: A Guide to Access, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in Festivals, Arts, and Culture. Specifically for People with Disabilities, People who are Working-Class/in Poverty, and Parents/Carers' (forthcoming, 2020); ‘The Ghostly Queer Migrant: Queering Place, Time, and Family in German Cinema’ (2020); ‘Queering Film Festivals: History, Theory, Impact’ (2018, with Skadi Loist); 'Playing Femme and Not Playing it Straight: Passing, Performance and Queering Time and Place’ (2018); ‘From Brooklyn to Berlin: Queer Temporality, In/Visibility and the Politics of Lesbian Archives’ (2018); 'An Introduction to Queer German Culture' (2018); ‘Passing and Policing: Controlling Compassion, Bodies and Boundaries in Boys Don’t Cry and Unveiled/Fremde Haut’ (2016); ‘Same, Same but Different: Filmmakers are Hikers on the Globe and Create Globalisation from Below' (with Monika Treut, 2014); ‘Aimee, Jaguar and Gender Melancholia’ (2012); ‘The Femme in Elfriede Jelinek’s Krankheit oder Moderne Frauen’ (2010).

She has given invited keynote talks and presented at conferences across Europe, North America, South America, and Australasia. 

Research Administration 

Dr Dawson is an internal peer reviewer for REF 2021 and an elected member of University Senate. Other research admin roles in the University have included: invited member of PhD funding panel in the School of LLC; Edge of Words Project Coordinator; and Impact Fellow, to mentor and motivate colleagues in public engagement and to share best practice

Invited roles beyond the University of Edinburgh include: Editorial Board member of MAI Journal of Feminist Visual Culture; peer reviewer for numerous journals; manuscript reviewer for publishing houses; Discipline+ Catalyst (Media, Communications, Film & TV) for the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities.


Impact Beyond the Academy

Dr Dawson’s research, coupled with her passion for access, equality, diversity, and inclusion, gives rise to organic social, cultural, and economic impact in her work with the public, private, and voluntary sectors. She has a sole-authored Impact Case Study for the next REF. 

She works with a number of LGBTQI+ film festivals in various capacities: she was the first Chair of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (to 2019) and other roles at SQIFF including event hosting and organisation since the first festival in 2015; she is collaborating with a number of LGBTIQ+ film festivals to improve working-class inclusion; she was an invited Lili Award judge (best feature; documentary; and short) for MIX Copenhagen (2019); and she is consultant for an online toolkit for queer film events. She co-founded the Queer Screens Network and is Academic Advisor for the Queer Research Network.

She has created, curated and hosted dozens of events for cinemas and arts venues, including the European Cinema season at Filmhouse (2012-2016) and numerous funded events (British Film Institute, Creative Scotland, Pecadillo Pictures, Goethe Institut) across the U.K. and beyond.

She mentors young people in film curation, including as part of Film Hub Scotland-funded project, Out at the Cameo (2018- ); is a consultant for arts projects, including Jenny Wilson’s Arts Council England-funded performances on femininities; she has a strong network of artists and filmmaker collaborators (inc. Bird la Bird; Campbell X; Krissie Mahan; Monika Treut) 

She has worked on a range of film projects in various capacities and is making a documentary, Femmes on Film, which couples her research on queer femininities and interviews with femme lesbian icons such as Guinevere Turner and Lois Weaver. 

She featured as an expert on lesbian representation in documentary, A Familiar Face (Rhona Shennan, 2018) and has appeared in the media, discussing the representation of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class, from small independent publications to the BBC and Harper’s Bazaar.

Selected External Funding and Awards

She has already attracted around half a million pounds of external funding, while still being considered an early career researcher. in her career. While some of this funding was won as part of a team, Dr Dawson attracted most of it by herself, from bodies as diverse as AHRC, Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, Goethe Institut, British Council, DAAD, and British Film Institute.

Alongside her outstanding grant capture success, publications, and networks for the next REF, she is the author of an Impact Case Study for REF2021, underpinned solely by her own research.

Administrative Roles

Before her AHRC Research Leadership award, Dr. Dawson was Chair of the Exam Board for the German Studies section.

She also conceived of Learners without Limits and SLIC Course, Languages Beyond University.

She is an elected member of University Senate and a member of the internal REF 2021 reading and assessment panel. 

Her previous administrative roles include:

She has been Course Organiser for:

  • From Girls in Uniform to Men in Drag: Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity on the German Screen (her final, year, research-led option, currently on hold because of her external research award) 
  • German 1B
  • German 4
  • Introduction to European Cinema (DELC)

and she co-organised MSc Film Exhibition and Curation option, Film and Gender.




Dr Dawson has a teaching qualification: the University of Edinburgh’s  Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, in which she trained in online learning and teaching and her ‘exemplary’ work in student diversity was applauded.She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and is frequently nominated for EUSA Teaching Awards (eg Best Course, Best Dissertation Supervisor, Best Personal Tutor).

She teaches and supervises in both German Studies and Film Studies at under- and postgraduate level, as well as for the MSc in Comparative Literature, MSc in Theatre and Performance, MSc in Translation Studies and MScRes in Gender and Culture. She is frequently invited to contribute to teaching beyond the School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures, including Edinburgh College of Art and the School of Medicine. 

Her teaching has expanded and diversified the curriculum. She introduced the first ever film course to the German section and finalising a new second-year course in Film Studies to offer a film-focus degree pathway for students of German. She played a key role in bringing Queer Studies to LLC and, keen to embed a strong student-centred/led approach to teaching and learning, worked innovatively with undergraduate students from Liberation at EUSA, who designed a new second-year LLC course, Queer Culture.

The SLIC Course: Languages Beyond University, was Dr Dawson’s idea and was rolled out across a number of DELC sections. Our students work in local schools to further improve student employability, widen participation, and encourage pupils to study with us at the University of Edinburgh. 

Dr Dawson also created Learners without Limits.

Undergraduate courses taught: Anatomy: Sex Determination (final year, Medical School); Film Criticism and Analysis (final year, LLC); From Girls in Uniform to Men in Drag: Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity on the German Screen (final year, German Studies); German 1: Translation and Text Production (first year); German 1B: Grammar (first year); German 2 Grammar (second year); German Language Paper 1 (final year); German Literature (first year; German Literature (second year); German Translation and Text Production (second year); Introduction to European Cinema (second-year, DELC); Introduction to Queer Studies (first-year Edinburgh College of Art)

Postgraduate courses taught: Cinema Auteurs (MSc Film Studies); Film Adaptation (MSc Film Studies); Film and Gender (MSc Film Exhibition and Curation); Film and the Other Arts (MSc Film Studies); Film Theory (MSc Film Studies); Research Methods (MSc Film Studies); Translation Studies: German Portfolio (MSc Translation Studies)

She spent a number of years as Chair of the German Studies exam boards.




Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Please do have a look at the broad range of topics I work on, listed in my profile (above), and get in touch if you would like to discuss me supervising your project.

Dr Dawson is dedicated to simultaneously improving employability and the student experience. She has organised and run events to mentor and train PhD students and prepare them for the academic job market (eg in collaboration with/funded by SGSAH) and is Academic Advisor for the graduate student-led Queer Research Network.

She supervised her first PhD student, Eva Spisikova to completion in 2.5 years and Dr Spisikova secured a postdoctoral research position after her viva. Dr Dawson's work has also attracted a postdoctoral researcher to the University of Edinburgh. 

She is open to supervising students in any of her areas of expertise.



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