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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.[1] 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.[2][3]

Imre Szeman addresses an audience at the University of Alberta in 2016


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.[4]

Szeman has made significant 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.

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. 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?”[5] Starting from this insight, 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.

Szeman has authored, edited, or co-edited 23 books, as well as numerous journal and magazine articles, book chapters, and special journal issues. He is also a sought-after speaker around the world. 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. He has received several awards, including the John Polanyi Prize in Literature (2000), a Killiam Annual Professorship (2013), and the J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research (2015).[6][7][8]



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 Articles

"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.

"What’s Left of the Dialectic? A Polemic” (with Nicholas Brown) English Studies in Canada 29.1 (2003): 16-25.

“System Failure: Oil, Futurity and the Anticipation of Disaster." South Atlantic Quarterly 106.4 (2007): 805-823.

“Marxist Literary Criticism, Then and Now.” Mediations 24.2 (2009): 36-47.

“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.

Selected Edited Collections

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)

Contemporary Marxist Theory: An Anthology (with Andrew Pendakis, Jeff Diamanti, Nicholas Brown and Josh Robinson) (Bloomsbury, 2014)

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)

The Bloomsbury Companion to Marx (with Jeff Diamanti and Andrew Pendakis) (Bloomsbury, 2018)


  1. ^ "Imre Szeman". 2017-01-25.
  2. ^ "Imre Szeman".
  3. ^ "New chair supports humanities research at McMaster".
  4. ^ "Imre Szeman". 2017-01-25.
  5. ^ Imre Szeman, "How to Know about Oil: Energy Epistemologies and Political Futures," Journal of Canadian Studies 47, no. 3 (Fall 2013): 147
  6. ^ "Polanyi Prize Winners".
  7. ^ "Killam-professorship-recipients | University of Alberta".
  8. ^ "J-gordon-kaplan-laureates | University of Alberta".