Imre Szeman

Imre Szeman (born 26 July 1968) is a Canadian cultural theorist, professor, and public intellectual. He is University Research Chair and Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Waterloo, and the Critic for Climate Change for the Green Party of Canada.[1][2] Szeman was previously Canada Research Chair of Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta (2009-2016) and Senator William McMaster Chair in Globalization and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.[3][4] In 2020, Szeman was named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.[5] In 2022, Szeman will be Leverhulme Visiting Professor in Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Imre Szeman in 2020


Szeman received his B.A. from Queen's University in 1990 and his M.A. from the University of Western Ontario in 1993. He began doctoral studies under Fredric Jameson at Duke University in 1993, where he completed a Ph.D. in Literature in 1998.[6]

Szeman has made contributions to debates in critical theory and cultural studies, as well as globalization, postcolonial, and Canadian studies. His early work explored the relationship between national identity and global modernity in postcolonial literature and the impact of globalization on contemporary political thought.[7][8]

Szeman is best known for his foundational contributions to the emerging field of “energy humanities,” which applies theories and methods from the humanities to problems of energy production, consumption, and transition.[9] He is the editor of, the official website for the Energy Humanities Project.[10] The starting point for this work, and for the analysis of “petroculture,” is Szeman’s question: “What if oil is fundamental to the societies we have now?”[11] Szeman’s work has dealt with the problem of the representation of oil and energy, the ways in which forms of energy shape cultural forms, expectations, and values, and role of the humanities in discussions of climate change and energy transition.[12][13][14]

Szeman has authored, edited, or co-edited 23 books, as well as numerous journal and magazine articles, book chapters, and special journal issues. Szeman founded the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and co-founded the U.S. Cultural Studies Association, Banff Research in Culture, and the Petrocultures Research Group.[15] He has received the John Polanyi Prize in Literature (2000), a Killiam Annual Professorship (2013), and the J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research (2015).[16][17][18]



  • Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism, and the Nation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003)
  • After Globalization (with Eric Cazdyn) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)
  • Popular Culture: A User’s Guide, 4 Editions (with Susie O’Brien) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2004-2017)
  • After Oil. (West Virginia University Press, 2016).
  • On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, Energy (West Virginia University Press, 2019)

Selected journal articlesEdit

  • "The Persistence of the Nation: Interdisciplinarity and Canadian Literary Criticism." Essays on Canadian Writing 65 (Fall 1998): 16-37.
  • "The Rhetoric of Culture: Some Notes on Magazines, Canadian Culture and Globalization.” Journal of Canadian Studies 35.3 (2000): 212-230.
  • "Who’s Afraid of National Allegory? Jameson, Literary Criticism, Globalization." South Atlantic Quarterly 100.3 (2001): 801-25.
  • “System Failure: Oil, Futurity and the Anticipation of Disaster." South Atlantic Quarterly 106.4 (2007): 805-823.
  • “How to Know About Oil: Energy Epistemologies and Political Futures.” Journal of Canadian Studies 47.3 (2013): 145-168.
  • “Crude Aesthetics: The Politics of Oil Documentaries.” Journal of American Studies 46.2 (2012): 423-439.
  • “Entrepreneurship as the New Common Sense.” South Atlantic Quarterly 114.3 (2015): 471-490.
  • “Conjectures on World Energy Literature.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 53.2 (2017): 1-12.
  • “Solarity” (with Darin Barney). South Atlantic Quarterly 120.1 (2021): 1-11.
  • “Quitting (the) Habit: Fossil Fuels, Governmentality and the Politics of Energy Dependency.” new formations 103 (2021): 63-77.
  • “What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Extractivism?” (with Jennifer Wenzel). Textual Practice 35.3 (2021): 505-523.

Selected edited collectionsEdit

  • Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture (with Nicholas Brown) (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)
  • The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (with Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth) (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).
  • Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader (with Sourayan Mookerjea and Gail Faurschou) (Duke University Press, 2009)
  • Cultural Theory: An Anthology (with Tim Kaposy) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
  • Energy Humanities: An Anthology (with Dominic Boyer) (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017)
  • A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory with Sarah Blacker and Justin Sully) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017)
  • Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment (with Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger) (Fordham University Press, 2017)
  • Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture (with Sheena Wilson and Adam Carlson) (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017)


  1. ^ "Imre Szeman". 2017-01-25.
  2. ^ "Shadow Cabinet - Climate Change - Dr. Imre Szeman". Green Party of Canada. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  3. ^ "Imre Szeman".
  4. ^ "New chair supports humanities research at McMaster".
  5. ^ "Two Arts scholars among Royal Society of Canada's Class of 2020". Arts. 2020-09-08. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  6. ^ "Imre Szeman". 2017-01-25.
  7. ^ "Zones of Instability | Johns Hopkins University Press Books". Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  8. ^ Szeman, Imre (2001). "Who's Afraid of National Allegory? Jameson, Literary Criticism, Globalization". South Atlantic Quarterly. 100.3: 801–825.
  9. ^ "Energy Humanities Official Website | Petrocultures". Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  10. ^ "Energy Humanities News | Welcome to Energy Humanities". Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  11. ^ Imre Szeman, "How to Know about Oil: Energy Epistemologies and Political Futures," Journal of Canadian Studies 47, no. 3 (Fall 2013): 147
  12. ^ "Petrocultures | McGill-Queen's University Press". Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  13. ^ "Energy Culture: Art and Theory on Oil and Beyond". 2019-03-27. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  14. ^ "On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, and Energy". 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  15. ^ "Banff Research in Culture: On Energy". Retrieved 2021-08-10.
  16. ^ "Polanyi Prize Winners". Archived from the original on 2018-11-01. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  17. ^ "Killam-professorship-recipients | University of Alberta".
  18. ^ "J-gordon-kaplan-laureates | University of Alberta". Archived from the original on 2018-10-24. Retrieved 2018-10-31.