Dr Jennifer Whitney


PhD – Critical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University
Fellow – Higher Education Academy
MA – Critical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University
BA (hons) – American Studies (Gender Studies), University of California, Santa Cruz

Specialist areas

Critical and Cultural Theory; Intersectional Feminist Theories; Material and Metaphor; Neoliberal Embodiment; and Visual, Digital and Popular Cultures


Jenn is an academic tutor and researcher in Constellation who teaches across Levels 4, 5, and 6. Her work is transdisciplinary, spanning inquiries into Art History; Critical Fashion and Beauty Studies; Fine Art; Feminist Theories; Media Studies; and Philosophy. She is interested in ideas of embodiment, identity, and representation – especially concerning issues of femininity. She has published academic essays on child beauty pageants; the metaphor of the doll in the fashion and beauty industries; and the role of plastic in contemporary conceptualisations of feminine embodiment. Jenn's previous posts include a research, outreach, and public engagement role at the University of the West of England and a teaching position at Cardiff University. She also teaches and supervises dissertations in the Fashion Department at the University of South Wales. Prior to becoming an academic, Jenn worked as a muralist, model, and art promoter.  


Current research

Jenn is currently working on two research projects. The first is a monograph entitled Plastic Beauty: Dolls and the Construction of Modern Femininity. The second involves research into the conflation of beauty with health and wellness in popular and virtual spaces.

Publications, lectures and media

  • Plastic Beauty: Dolls and the Construction of Modern Femininity (London: I. B. Tauris/Bloomsbury, Visual Culture Library), forthcoming
  •  'Working Girls: Economies of Desire in American Child Beauty Pageants' in Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, 12:3 (Fall 2019), pp. 452-470
  • "Beauty Below the Belt" in The Polyphony, December 2018:

  • ''Braid rage: is cultural appropriation harmless borrowing or a damaging act?' in:

    a. The Conversation, May 2017: <http://theconversation.com/braid-rage-is-cultural-appropriation-harmless-borrowing-or-a-damaging-act-77920>

    b. The Independent, May 2017: <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/braid-rage-is-cultural-appropriation-harmless-borrowing-or-a-damaging-act-a7744331.html>
  • (Co-Editor with Miriam Forman-Brunell) Dolls Studies: The Many Meanings of Girls' Toys and Play (Mediated Youth Series) (New York: Peter Lang Press, 2015)
  • '"It's Barbie, Bitch!": Re-reading the Doll Through Nicki Minaj and Harajuku Barbie' in Dolls Studies: The Meanings of Girls' Toys and Play (Mediated Youth Series), ed. Miriam Forman-Brunell and Jennifer Dawn Whitney (New York: Peter Lang Press, 2015), pp. 85-102
  • 'Beauty Made Plastic: Constructions of a Western Feminine Ideal' in Word and Text: A Journal of Literary Studies and Linguistics, 3:2 (December 2013), pp. 119-132
  • 'Some Assembly Required: Black Barbie and the Fabrication of Nicki Minaj' in Girlhood Studies, 5:1 (summer 2012), pp. 141-159


Public Lectures

  • 'Glow: Discourses of Wellness in Social Media and Popular Culture', Gender and Performance Seminar Series, University of South Wales, November 2018
  • 'Goop: Celebrity Culture, Beauty and Wellness', Marie Curie Guest Seminars, Aarhus University, June 2018
  • 'Gendered Empathy in Microsoft's Tay Chatbot' for the 'Empathy and Nonhuman Agents' Plenary Roundtable, European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts, University of Basel, June 2017
  • 'Beyoncé's Role in Popular Culture' Roundtable, Bey Day Conference, Cardiff University, June 2016
  • 'Gender and the Doll in AI Technology', STATE Arts and Technology Festival, Berlin, November 2016
  •  'Human and the Machine', South West Futurists, Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol, January 2016
  • 'Pink Friday Fandom: Becoming Barbie with Nicki Minaj', Pervasive Media Studio Lunchtime Talk, Bristol, November 2015
  • 'Class Acts: Poverty and the Performance of Girlhood in the American Child Beauty Pageant', Theoria: Gender, Performance & Theory Symposium, University of St Andrews, May 2015
  • 'Dolls on Parade: Exploring Girlhood in American Child Beauty Pageants', Assuming Gender Seminar Series, Cardiff University, May 2014


  • Interview for Stylish Academic website, forthcoming 2019
  • Interview on child beauty pageants with Xpress Radio, Cardiff University, 2019
  • Podcast on feminism and pornography with Creative Industry students, USW, 2018
  • Interview with Allison Yates for an article about dolls in Atlas Obscura, 2018
  • Interview for documentary on robotics and the arts, Massey University, 2017
  • Interview with Erika Kvistad for an article about 'We, Robots' in Klassekampen, 2016