Susie O’Brien, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Chair of the English Graduate Studies Committee
Phone: 905-525-9140 ext. 23724
Office: Chester New Hall, Room 301
Areas of Interest
English; Cultural Studies; Literature; Postcolonialism; Ecocriticism
Susie O’Brien has been at McMaster since 1997. Hired to teach postcolonial literature and theory, she got lost in the thickets of popular culture, where she watched a lot of good and bad TV, and co-wrote (with Imre Szeman) a textbook, Popular Culture: A User’s Guide (Nelson, 2004) the fourth edition of which came out in 2017, with an international edition forthcoming. She continues to teach and research in literary and cultural studies, with a focus on postcolonialism, the environment, and globalization. SSHRC-funded research includes participation as a co-investigator in an MCRI (Major Collaborative Research Initiative) on Globalization and Autonomy, and individual projects focused on postcolonialism and the environment and (ongoing) a study of the concept of resilience in postcolonial culture and ecology. Her publications, which include essays in Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Globalizations, Postcolonial Text, Canadian Literature, Cultural Critique, Interventions, Mosaic, and South Atlantic Quarterly, focus on postcolonial ecology, the slow and local food movements, risk and resilience. She is currently working on a book, tentatively titled Surprise! The Strength and Fragility of Resilience Stories, that analyzes the usefulness and the limitations of the concept of resilience through a postcolonial ecocritical lens. While finding much of value in the model of resilience thinking (e.g. it recognizes the inseparability of human and non-human life at multiple scales and temporalities, it complicates the conventional distinction between identity and change, and accepts the constitutive role of uncertainty in knowledge), the project questions the resonance of resilience with the neoliberalism, for which project it works to naturalize values of flexibility, deregulation and “creative destruction”. An offshoot of this project is a study of the discipline of scenario planning, a practice used by a range of actors, from military strategists to environmental managers, for coping with a future understood to be rife with uncertainty. It looks to postcolonial literature as a counter-discourse that works to challenge the epistemological framework, and spatio-temporal politics of scenario planning, allowing us to imagine more equitable futures. This study contributes to the work of the interdisciplinary Globalization and Time Working Project at McMaster.
Susie’s teaching focuses on cultural studies, postcolonialism, environmentalism and globalization. Undergraduate courses taught include English/CSCT 2Z03 (Shifting Ground: Nature, Literature), Culture English/CSCT 1B3 (Cultural Studies and Visual Culture), English/CSCT 1CS3 (Studying Culture: A Critical Introduction), English 2J03 (Contemporary Popular Culture); English/CSCT 3R06 (Postcolonial Cultures: Theory and Practice) and English/CSCT 4WL3 (Postcolonial Literature and Globalization). She has also taught graduate courses in the areas of cultural studies and critical theory, ecology, globalization and risk: CSCT 700 (Issues in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory I), EN/CSCT 731 (Anxiety Disorders: The Cultural Politics of Risk), EN/CSCT 784 (Postcolonial Ecologies) and English/CSCT/Globalization 779 (The Times We Live In).
Susie has supervised/is supervising PhD projects whose topics include: lab mice, postcolonial resistance, the politics of postcolonial forgiveness, literary cosmopolitanism, environmental justice in postcolonial literature, local food, the political aesthetics of humour, and cynicism and politics. In 2009, she won the humanities Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision.
Popular Culture: A User’s Guide (revised for international publication) Wiley-Blackwell, 2017. Co-authors Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman. (forthcoming).
Time, Globalization and Human Experience. Routledge, 2017. Eds. Paul Huebener, Susie O’Brien, Tony Porter, Liam Stockdale, and Y. Rachel Zhou (eds).
Popular Culture: A User’s Guide. Toronto: Thomson Nelson, 2004. Co-authors Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman. (2nd edition 2009) (3rd edition 2013) (Revised 4th edition forthcoming 2017).
Instructor’s Manual for 2nd edition of Popular Culture: A User’s Guide. Toronto: Thomson Nelson, 2009. Co-authors Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman
Refereed Book Chapters:
“Introduction.” In Time, Globalization and Human Experience. Eds. Paul Huebener, Susie O’Brien, Tony Porter, Liam Stockdale, and Y. Rachel Zhou. Routledge, 2017.
“Resilience.” Fueling Culture. Eds. Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel, and Patricia Yaeger. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016. 7 pp.
“The Edgework of the Clerk: Resilience in Arundhati Roy’s Walking With the Comrades.” In Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities. Eds. Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Anthony Carrigan, and Jill Didur. New York: Routledge, 2015. 189-206.
“Postcolonialism and the Environment.” In Oxford Handbook of Postcolonial Studies. Ed. Graham Huggan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 521-539. Co-authors Dana Mount and Susie O’Brien.
“’No Debt Outstanding’: The Postcolonial Politics of Local Food.” In Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century. Eds. Stephanie Lemenager, Theresa Shrewry, and Ken Hiltner. New York: Routledge, 2011. 231-246.
“Anti-Fascist Gluttons of the World Unite! The Cultural Politics of Slow Food.” In Culture and Autonomy: Frictions and Connections. Eds. Imre Szeman and Petra Rethmann. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010. 219-239.
“‘Back to the World’: Reading Ecocriticism in a Postcolonial Context.” In Five Emus to the King of Siam: Environment and Empire. Ed. Helen Tiffin. Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2008. 177-200.
Refereed Journal Articles:
“Resilience Stories: Narratives of Adaptation, Refusal and Compromise.” Resilience: Journal of the Environmental Humanities. 3.3 (2016)
“’We Thought the World Was Makeable’: Scenario Planning and Postcolonial Fiction.” Globalizations. 13.3 (2016). Published online 18 June 2015. 17 pp.
“Introduction: Exploring the Intersection of Time and Globalization.” Globalizations. 13.3 (2016). Published online 18 June, 2015. 14 pp. Co-authors Paul Huebener, Susie O’Brien, Tony Porter, Liam Stockdale, and Y. Rachel Zhou.
“‘Graceful Failure’: The Privatization of Resilience.” Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies. 36.4 (2014): 260-273.
“Creative Destruction and a Sliver of Hope: Resilience Manifesto.” Resilience: Journal of Environmental Humanities. 1.1 (2014): 4 pp.
“Resilient Virtue and the Virtues of Resilience: Post-Bhopal Ecology in Animal’s People.” Kunapipi. 34.2 (2013): 23-31.
“Canadian Literary Environments.” Canadian Literature. 204 (2010): 118-120.
“’Superfluous Words’: Ecological and Cultural Resilience in Things Fall Apart.” Postcolonial Text. 5.1 (2009) online (11 pp).
“Survival Strategies for Global Times: The Desert Walk for Biodiversity, Health and Heritage.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 9.1 (2007): 84-99.
“On Death And Donuts: Irony and Ecology After September 11th.” Cultural Critique. 58 (2004): 148-167.
“Slow Food.” Globalization & Autonomy Online Compendium. Eds. William Coleman, Nancy Johnson, Geoffrey Rockwell and Andrew Mactavish. Globalization & Autonomy Research Project. http://strange.mcmaster.ca.
“Desert Walk for Health, Heritage and Biodiversity.” Globalization & Autonomy Online Compendium. Eds. William Coleman, Nancy Johnson, Geoffrey Rockwell and Andrew Mactavish. Globalization & Autonomy Research Project. http://strange.mcmaster.ca.
“The Garden and the World: Jamaica Kincaid and the Cultural Borders of Ecocriticism.” Mosaic 35. (2002): 167-184.
“Introduction: The Globalization of Fiction/The Fiction of Globalization.” Anglophone Literatures and Global Culture. Special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly 100.3 (2002): 603-626. Co-authors Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman.
“Articulating a World of Difference: Ecocriticism, Postcolonialism and Globalization.” Canadian Literature. 170/171 (2002): 140-161.
“Nature’s Nation/National Natures: Ecocriticism in a Canadian Context.” Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews. 42 (1998): 17‑41. (Reprinted in (De)Constructing Canadianness. Myth of the Nation and Its Discontents. Ed. Eugenia Sojka. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Slask, 2005. 17‑41; Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context. Ed. Ella Soper and Nicholas Bradley. Calgary University of Calgary Press, 2013
“The Place of America in an Era of Postcolonial Imperialism.” ARIEL. 29.2 (1998): 159‑183.
“Serving a New World Order: Postcolonial Politics in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day.” Modern Fiction Studies. 42.4 (1996): 787‑806.
“’Please, Eunice, Don’t Be Ignorant’: The White Trickster in Lee Maracle.” Canadian Literature. 144/145 (1995): 82‑97.
“Lying Back and Thinking of England: Sex and Nationalism in Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley.” The Frontenac Review. 10/11 (1993/94): 54‑79.
“’Little Ole Noo Zealand’: NZ‑US Relations in Janet Frame’s The Carpathians.” Kunapipi. 15.1 (1993): 94‑102.
“Raising Silent Voices: The Mute Child in David Malouf’s Imaginary Life and Keri Hulme’s The Bone People.” SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. 31(1991): 23‑37.
Interviews, Working Papers Series, Edited Special Issues, Creative Works:
“Ventolin.” dig-eh.org (Digital Environmental Humanities website) (contribution to multimedia project on “objects that are good to think with”) 2015
“Guest Blog Post: Susie O’Brien’s DEH course.” dig-eh.org (Digital Environmental Humanities website) 9 Dec. 2015.
Special issue of Globalizations. 13.3 (2016). Published online 18 June 2015. Eds. Paul Huebener, Susie O’Brien, Tony Porter, Liam Stockdale and Y. Rachel Zhou.
“Interview with Susie O’Brien.” With Lisa Szabo Jones. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature. 44.4 (2013). (5 pp.)
An Interdisciplinary Forum on Time and Globalization, Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition Working Paper Series. 12/3 (2012). Eds. Paul Huebener, Susie O’Brien, Tony Porter, Y. Rachel Zhou, and Liam Stockdale.
“The Time of the Black Swan.” An Interdisciplinary Forum on Time and Globalization, Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition Working Working Paper Series. 12/3 (2012): 16-19.
Content Providers of the World Unite! The Cultural Politics of Globalization. Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition Working Paper Series. McMaster University, 2003. Eds. Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman.
Anglophone Literatures and Global Culture. Special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly. 100.3 (2002). Eds. Susie O’Brien and Imre Szeman.