Imre Szeman


A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory

A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory offers a fresh perspective on both familiar and under-theorized questions and topics animating the field of contemporary critical and cultural theory. It provides a full account of the history and scope of the field, focusing on the most pressing questions and problems that occupy and impel contemporary theoretical discourse. Gathering together some of the most widely read and innovative theorists working today, this Companion offers thirty-nine essays designed to illuminate the topics that dominate theoretical debate today and, we anticipate, for some time to come. By framing its chapters around the problems and issues animating the field today, A Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory offers a theoretical framework within which crucial questions, traditions, approaches, and concepts in critical and cultural theory take on newly generative valences. Capturing the dynamism of contemporary theory, the essays collected in this book will provide a comprehensive account of the ways in which the study of literature and culture has been, and continues to be challenged and energized by critical and cultural theory.

Divided into two sections entitled “Lineages” and “Problematics,” the essays in this volume offer a genealogy of critical and cultural theory that highlights its heterogeneous geographical, cultural and theoretical influences (“Lineages”), while also foregrounding the issues and problems animating contemporary theoretical discourse (“Problematics”). Grouped together by analytical orientation into three sub-sections (“Living and Labouring,” “Ways of Being,” and “Structures of Agency and Belonging”), the essays on problematics cut across the field’s existing debates, foci, and subfields, and in so doing highlight new questions and approaches in critical and cultural theory.

On Entrepreneurship

On Entrepreneurship: Immaterial Labor and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century

With this special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly we seek to interrogate the ways in which the idea of entrepreneurship and the figure of the entrepreneurial subject functions politically, economically, and aesthetically. Although this topic has been and is being addressed from business, management, and organization perspectives, there has been little sustained investigation from a cultural studies, humanities, and social science perspective since Foucualt’s preliminary investigations in the 1970s. While his work appears prescient (coming before the neoliberal regimes inaugurated by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan), the intensified developments of entrepreneurial modes of economic and social being since the 1980s deserve renewed interest.

This issue addresses gaps in contemporary cultural research on enterprise and the entrepreneur. We see these terms embodying a number of other key words that increasingly structure the ways in which correct behavior is imagined for individuals and communities: flexibility, perpetual training, innovation, risk management, leadership, creativity, self-motivation, responsibility, and all those other ways in which the individual must become, in Foucault’s words, the site of “permanent and multiple enterprise” (241). As well, investigations of the entrepreneurial can themselves incorporate any number of other key concepts for contemporary cultural studies and social science: precarity, development, governmentality and biopolitics, liberalism and neoliberalism, globalization, debt and credit, financialization, workfare and other decentered modes of employment, the celebration of the individual, and so on.

Contributors include Nicole Cohen, Joanna Figiel, Matthew Flisfeder, Mellanie Gilligan, Dan Harvey, Miranda Joseph, Leigh Claire La Berge, Andrew Pendakis, Stevphen Shukaitis, Imre Szeman and Marina Vishmidt.

Contemporary Marxist Theory: An Anthology

This anthology brings together major texts in late twentieth century Marxist thought, focusing on work written during the past two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It takes as its point of departure the strong sense that—contrary to rumours of its death in conjunction with the end of state socialism—the influence and impact of Marxist theory is today stronger than ever, and has become even more essential for understanding our historical conjuncture than during the Cold War. The crisis-ridden world produced by global capitalism requires theoretically sophisticated and critically sharp analyses of political and economic systems and structures, and of the social and cultural imaginaries which inflect and shape their formation. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the voices dominating critical and cultural theory in the past two decades have belonged to thinkers identified with the ideas of Marxist thought and its intellectual heritage. This book fills a significant gap in the contemporary world of ideas by showcasing an area of scholarly analysis whose impact on intellectual thought and political action will only grow in coming years.

Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment

How has our relation to energy changed over time? What differences do specific energy sources make to human values and politics? What concepts and theories allow us to clarify our relation to energy, and which just get in the way? And how have changing energy resources transformed culture in turn? Fueling Culture: 100 Words for Energy and the Environment collects conceptual interventions, illuminating short narratives and adventurous think-pieces from major scholars to generate new ways of thinking about energy. Rather than offering a catalog of existing knowledge, the keywords collected in Fueling Culture push past the limits of current discourse, much of which focuses on the irresolvable contradictions of dependence upon unsustainable energy forms.

Fueling Culture brings together writing that is risk-taking and interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from political economy, political ecology, environmental history, eco-criticism, postcolonial and globalization studies, and materialisms old and new, including thing theory and actor network theory. Since the significant social, political and cultural predicaments generated by energy are moving to the forefront of scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, the aim of this book is to generate novel insights into the social circulation of energy and the importance of energy for critical investigations and interpretations of culture today.

Topics include: aboriginal, abundance, addiction, altruism, America, anthropocene, architecture, Arctic, automobile, biopolitics/energopolitics, biological evolution, celluloid, charcoal, China, coal, community, corporation, crisis, dams, demand, disaster, ecology, electricity, engine, Enlightenment, ethics, evolution, exhaust, exhaustion, fallout, fracking, frontier, geophilosophy, gender, globalization, green, image, innovation, intellectual history, kerosene, Latin America, materialism, media, mediashock, Middle East, network, Nigeria, off-grid, peak, pipeline, plastics, resilience, resource curse, risk, rubber, rural, Russia, security, soil, solar, spills, strike, suburb, sugar, surveillance, sustainability, Texas, unobtanium, urban ecology, United States, utopia, waste, water, whaling, wood and work.

Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: The Johns Hopkins Guide

Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory: The Johns Hopkins Guide is a clear, accessible and detailed overview of the most important thinkers and topics in contemporary literary and cultural studies. Intended for use by scholars, students and others interested in contemporary theoretical issues, the Guide provides an informative and reliable introduction to this vast, challenging area of inquiry. Written by specialists from across the disciplines, its 101 entries cover every aspect of contemporary theory from A (Adorno) to Z (Zizek). By establishing a context broad and flexible enough to engage directly the many definitional difficulties and discursive complexities that abound in literary and cultural theory, this Guide is designed to answer the questions that occur to teachers, students, and others as they traverse the contemporary critical and theoretical landscape, and to show them where to turn for additional help. With extensive cross-referencing both within and at the conclusion of each entry, and bibliographies and indexes designed to help readers find the information they are looking for, Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory is the tool every student of contemporary literature and culture needs on their desk.

“The very thoroughness and high quality of each entry, as well as attentive editing, are what makes The Johns Hopkins Guide to Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory an essential tool for anyone looking for an at once in-depth and accessible study of some of the major concepts of literary theory today.”
— Alice Braun, Cercles

After Globalization

In lively and unflinching prose, Eric Cazdyn and Imre Szeman argue that contemporary thought about the world is disabled by a fatal flaw: the inability to think “an after” to globalization. After establishing seven theses (on education, morality, history, future, capitalism, nation, and common sense) that challenge the false promises that sustain this time-limit, After Globalization examines four popular thinkers (Thomas Friedman, Richard Florida, Paul Krugman and Naomi Klein) and how their work is dulled by these promises. Cazdyn and Szeman then speak to students from around the globe who are both unconvinced and uninterested in these promises and who understand the world very differently than the way it is popularly represented. After Globalization argues that a true capacity to think an after to globalization is the very beginning of politics today.

“Cadzyn and Szeman begin with the idea that the current economic crisis has historicized globalization, turning it from a process that looked as inevitable as, say, global warming still does, into an episode in the history of capitalism: hence the possibility not just of more globalization but of an “after globalization.” And hence also, they argue, the renewed possibility of an “after capitalism.” In powerful critiques of what they describe as the common sense of capital today they sketch out the terms in which changes more radical than substituting generous and honest leaders for the greedy and dishonest ones we’ve currently got might begin to be imagined.”
—Walter Benn Michaels, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Relentlessly, remorselessly, endlessly, we are told there is no alternative to globalization, whether our lecturers are bourgeois economists, progressive journalists, or imaginative litterateurs. Eric Cazdyn and Imre Szeman dare to go beyond the standard thinking of the day and query the very heart of mobile capital and its impact on daily life. Their alternative vision breathes new life into our sense of evolution and inevitability.”
—Toby Miller, author of Globalization and Sport and Global Hollywood

“Part 1 [of After Globalization] argues that the economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath exposed capitalism as the rotting core of globalization, which had been hidden away for years while globalization was treated as a quasi-natural phenomenon. However, the public and scholars alike have failed to come to grips with the need to conceive an alternative to capitalism, given its once again obvious deficiencies as a fundamental organizing system for human interaction. Part 2 provides relatively fine-grained critiques from this same perspective on the writings of Richard Florida, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Naomi Klein, plus the film Michael Clayton. Part 3 consists of interviews with students ages 18-30 at a number of sites around the world. The students, like the authors, ‘see a troubled world in need of fundamental change,’ but are unable to conceive or articulate what that change would entail. They end not with easy answers but with a call not to give up on radical possibilities and utopian futures. Summing Up: Recommended.” — M. F. Farrell, Choice

“Offers a much-needed tonic to more than two decades of less-than-critical analyses of the concept of globalization,” and in doing so, is poised to “launch us into a more nuanced and developed discussion of economic models based on, for instance, environmentally sustainable practices and principles that would offer an urgent and rational redistribution of wealth and free us from globalization’s ‘perpetual present, a project and a period without end’.” — Graeme Stout, Cultural Critique

Cultural Theory: An Anthology

Cover of Cultural Theory: An Anthology

Cultural Theory: An Anthology is a collection of the essential readings that have shaped and defined the field of contemporary cultural theory.

Cultural Theory constitutes a valuable resource for scholars, as well as a springboard for further discussion. Introductions to each of the six sections, which focus on key concepts, themes, or topics in cultural theory, as well as the introduction to the anthology as a whole, are clear and succinct, and enough bases are covered here to make the anthology appealing to a wide range of researchers. Lists of additional readings, and the inclusion of a glossary of terms, further enhance what is undeniably a welcome intervention in the field. In short, this is not an anthology we will be stopping doors with any time soon.” —Heather Snell, ariel

“This anthology is an extraordinarily useful toolbox for teaching cultural theory. But more than that, by organizing the texts around a series of core concepts, it not only provides students with an excellent introduction but also gives scholars a fresh perspective on the field.“
 —Michael Hardt, Duke University

“Cultural theory has expanded its influence immensely over the past two decades. Now we have a comprehensive selection of the best and most influential writers in the field, ably compiled and introduced by expert editors.“
 —Toby Miller, University of California, Riverside

“The introductory chapters for each section are uniformly cogent and well written, and the choices of material are judicious and at times refreshingly unexpected. Cultural Theory: An Anthology is set to become the standard classroom text in the field.” 
—Nicholas Lawrence, University of Warwick

“Essential reading for all students of culture, whatever their disciplinary background.“
 —Nick Couldry, Goldsmiths, University of London

Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections

Cover of Cultural Autonomy

Globalization has challenged concepts such as local culture and cultural autonomy, and the rampant commodification of cultural products has challenged the way we define culture itself. Have these developments transformed the relationship between culture and autonomy? Have traditional notions of cultural autonomy been recast? 

Cultural Autonomy showcases the work of scholars who are exploring new ways of understanding the critical issue of globalization and culture. By defining culture broadly — as a set of ideas or practices that range from skateboarding to the work of public intellectuals such as Edward Said — they trace how issues of cultural autonomy have played out in various areas, including the human rights and environmental movements and among indigenous peoples. Although the contributors focus on the marginalized issue of autonomy, they offer a balanced perspective — one that reveals that globalization has not only limited but also created new forms of cultural autonomy.

Table of Contents



  1. Introduction: Cultural Autonomy, Politics, and Global Capitalism / William D. Coleman, Imre Szeman, and Petra Rethmann
  2. Our Ways of Knowing: Globalization —The End of Universalism? / Arif Dirlik
  3. Bioeconomics, Culture, and Politics after Globalization / Eric Cazdyn
  4. Globalization, Postmodernism, and (Autonomous) Criticism / Imre Szeman
  5. The World, the Literary, and the Political / Peter Hitchcock
  6. Global Public Intellectuals, Autonomy, and Culture: Reflections Inspired by the Death of Edward Said / Neil McLaughlin
  7. The Politics of Indigenous Knowledge in Environmental Assessment: James Bay Crees and Hydroelectric Projects / Wren Nasr and Colin Scott
  8. Culture, Race, and the Global Imaginary in Canadian Defence Policy: A Case Study of Roméo Dallaire’s Shake Hands with the Devil / Heike Härting
  9. Global Activism and the Visual Grammar of Nature / Petra Rethmann
  10. Making Big Noise: The Northern Resonance of Zapatismo / Alex Khasnabish
  11. Anti-Fascist Gluttons of the World Unite! The Cultural Politics of Slow Food / Susie O’Brien
  12. Autonomy on the Market: China and India Change Tracks / Anna Greenspan
  13. Dead-Stock Boards, Blown-Out Spots, and the Olympic Games: Global Twists and Local Turns in the Formation of China’s Skateboarding Community / Tim Sedo

Notes and Acknowledgments

Popular Culture: A User's Guide

Cover of Popular Culture: A User's Guide, 2nd EditionCover of Popular Culture: A User's Guide

Popular Culture: A User’s Guide is an introduction to the critical study of mass culture and media. This book aims to take readers beyond the “common sense” approach to popular culture and create a level of awareness where readers understand their role not just as consumers but also as agents of popular culture.

Table of Contents (Third Edition)

  1. Introducing Popular Culture

  2. The History of Popular Culture

  3. Representation and the Construction of Social Reality

  4. The Production of Popular Culture

  5. The Consuming Life

  6. Identity and the Body

  7. Identity, Community, Collectivity

  8. Subcultures and Countercultures

  9. Space, Place and Globalization
  10. Popular Culture in the 21st Century

“Use this book! The second edition of Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman’s Popular Culture: A User’s Guide traverses a vast range of popular culture—its slippery definitions, its history as a field of study, the stakes in its production and consumption, its relevance to the construction of the body, community, space, globalization—with specificity, nuance and lucidity. As a textbook, one of its core aims is to increase students’ critical agency in their relationships to popular culture. Especially as we’re back on the treadmill of rising class sizes and diminishing resources, it also represents very welcome support for instructors.”
— Christine Bold, Reviews in Cultural Theory

Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader

Cover of Canadian Cultural Studies

Canada is situated geographically, historically, and culturally between old empires (Great Britain and France) and a more recent one (United States), as well as on the terrain of First Nations communities. Poised between historical and metaphorical empires and operating within the conditions of incomplete modernity and economic and cultural dependency, Canada has generated a body of cultural criticism and theory, which offers unique insights into the dynamics of both center and periphery. The reader brings together for the first time in one volume recent writing in Canadian cultural analysts of the postwar era.

Including essays by anglophone, francophone, and First Nations writers, the reader is divided in to three parts, the first of which features essays by scholars who helped set the agenda for cultural and social analysis in Canada and remain important to contemporary intellectual formations: Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and Anthony Wilden in communications theory; Northrop Frye in literary studies; George Grant and Harold Innis in a left-nationalist tradition of critical political economy; Fernand Dumont and Paul-Émile Borduas in Quebecois national and political culture; and Harold Cardinal in native studies.

The volume’s second section showcases work in which contemporary authors address Canada’s problematic and incomplete nationalism; race, difference, and multiculturalism; and modernity and contemporary culture. The final section includes excerpts from federal policy documents that are especially important to Canadians’ conceptions of their social, political, and cultural circumstances. The reader opens with a foreword by Fredric Jameson and concludes with an afterword in which the Quebecois scholar Yves Laberge explores the differences between English-Canadian cultural studies and the prevailing forms of cultural analysis in francophone Canada.

“The editors deserve credit for bringing together scattered and not easily accessible seminal articles focusing on Canadian economy and polity. This anthology, comprising historical, contemporary, multidisciplinary, theoretical, and critical essays, will remain an essential sourcebook on Canadian cultural studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended.” —D. A. Chekki, Choice

“This reader is a timely and provocative reflection on Canadian cultural studies. While some readers may be familiar with many of the essays, encountering them again will prove to be rewarding for the new insights that their juxtapositions in this volume offer. This volume attests to not only to the substantial history of cultural theory in Canada, but also to its vibrancy.”
—Lily Cho, ariel

Canadian Cultural Studies marks an important publication. . . . With contributions from media studies, literary studies, cultural studies, Aboriginal studies, and studies of multiculturalism, as well as government policy documents and a concerted effort to bridge the divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada, this reader does a great job of covering its ground. . . . [T]hese are essential essays and documents. It is, moreover, an accessible and useful text that I heartily recommend to instructors of Canadian studies looking to foster a sense of academic rigour in their courses.” —Kit Dobson, Canadian Literature

Canadian Cultural Studies is a brilliant study and appropriation of some of the most important issues that have been central to the history of cultural studies. But there is more at work in this book than appropriation; Canadian Cultural Studies rewrites that legacy and establishes Canada as a society in which cultural studies as a theoretical discourse and practice is being played out in ways that make this book indispensable to understanding what cultural studies has become and where it might be going in the future. This is an extraordinary book for anyone interested in cultural studies and the importance of Canada in rewriting and applying some of its most fundamental assumptions.”—Henry A. Giroux, author of Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?

“For those familiar with cultural studies in Canada, this reader offers a necessary and illuminating consolidation of key texts. For newer eyes, there is fresh inspiration. Expertly selected and organized, the material assembled here is a gilded invitation to explore this rich field of interdisciplinary and politically engaged cultural analysis. Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader is a vital contribution to contemporary currents in the study of globalization, nationhood, and identity.”—Charles R. Acland, author of Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture

“The greatest strengths of Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader are its rich contextualizations and, relatedly, its presentation of an implicit dialogue between the volume’s contributors. Its editors… bring together key essays contributing to the emergence of the field in Canada while providing a comprehensive map of Canadian cultural studies scholarship from the 1950s to the present.” —Susan Pell, Topia