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Amber Dean, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and Gender Studies

Chair of the English Graduate Studies Committee

Phone: 905-525-9140 x.23725
Office: Chester New Hall 214

Areas of Interest

Violence and public mourning; trauma and memory studies; feminist and queer theory; Indigenous and settler colonial studies; visual culture; gentrification; critical Canadian studies; and critical race studies.


Amber Dean is Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies, cross-appointed to the Graduate Program in Gender Studies and Feminist Research at McMaster University. Her research focuses on public mourning, violence, and cultural memory, and investigates the question of what makes a life widely “grievable” in the context of contemporary, colonial Canada. She is also interested in how creative forms of cultural production (fiction, art, photography, film, performance) disrupt and reframe common-sense understandings of whose lives (and deaths) matter.


Her first book, Remembering Vancouver’s Disappeared Women: Settler Colonialism and the Difficulty of Inheritance (University of Toronto Press, 2015), offers a timely, critical analysis of the public representations, memorials, and activist strategies that brought the story of Vancouver’s disappeared women to the attention of a wider public. Between the late 1970s and the early 2000s, at least sixty-five women, many of them members of Indigenous communities, were found murdered or reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Remembering Vancouver’s Disappeared Women traces “what lives on” from the violent loss of so many women from the same neighbourhood. Awarded the CSN-RÉC 2016 prize for the Best Book in Canadian Studies, the Women’s and Gender Studies et Recherches Feministes Association’s 2017 Outstanding Scholarship Prize (co-winner), and the 2017 Donald Shepherd Book Prize by the McMaster Faculty of Humanities, the book explores the potential that varied approaches to public mourning and memorialization hold for provoking a much wider sense of implication in the disappearances or murders of the women in question, and in doing so it provides provocations for reconsidering how and why their violent deaths or disappearances were possible in the first place.


Amber’s next research project focused on developing the connections between public mourning and the (re)production of an idealized “Canadian-ness” that privileges whiteness and conventional expressions of gender and sexuality. By analyzing examples of public mourning and memorialization occurring in the wake of the 2005 Mayerthorpe RCMP murders, the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, and the disappearance or murder of 1200 or more Indigenous women across Canada, she examined how some violent deaths are quite clearly represented in a national framework as mattering more than others, and explored how this challenges popular understandings of Canada as a multicultural mosaic premised on equality. This research resulted in several book chapters and journal articles, and led to a co-edited book with Chandrima Chakraborty and Angela Failler, Remembering Air India: The Art of Public Mourning (University of Alberta Press, 2017).


Amber also does research on community-engaged teaching and learning. A book chapter, “Colonialism, Neoliberalism, and University-Community Engagement: What sorts of encounters with difference are our institutions prioritizing?” interrogates several ethical issues arising from the recent widespread turn to community engagement as an institutional priority in Canadian Universities. With Susanne Luhmann and Jennifer L. Johnson, Amber has also co-edited a collection of essays titled Learning Elsewhere? Critical Perspectives on Community-based Praxis Learning in Canadian Women’s and Gender Studies Programs, which is under review with Wilfrid Laurier University Press.


At McMaster, Amber teaches undergraduate courses in cultural studies, feminist thought, and literary/cultural theory. She offers graduate seminars on gender, violence and visual culture and on public mourning in Canada, and she also regularly teaches core courses in the M.A. programs in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory and in Gender Studies and Feminist Research. Amber welcomes graduate students working in the areas of public mourning, violence, memorialization, and cultural memory; representations of disappeared or murdered women; feminist and queer theory, especially projects focused on sexualized violence, sex work, intersectionality, or the question of how we “pass on” feminist history; gentrification, “Creative Class” rhetoric, and their effects on marginalized residents in inner-city neighbourhoods; and projects on building communities and solidarities across difference, especially in relation to social justice activism or social movements.







Chakraborty, Chandrima, Amber Dean, and Angela Failler., Eds. Remembering Air India: The Art of Public Mourning. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.





amber dean




Remembering Vancouver’s Disappeared Women: Settler Colonialism and the Difficulty of Inheritance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.


Refereed Journal Articles and Chapters (selected):

“Ghosts and Their Analysts: Writing and Reading Toward Something Like Justice for Murdered or Missing Indigenous Women.” With Kara Granzow. Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies. 16.1 (2016): 83-94.


“Moving beyond ‘Stock Narratives’ of Murdered or Missing Indigenous Women: Reading the Poetry and Life Writing of Sarah de Vries.” In Learn, Teach, Challenge: Approaching Indigenous Literatures. Deanna Reder and Linda M. Morra, eds. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2016: 341-347.


“The CMHR and the Ongoing Crisis of Murdered or Missing Indigenous Women: Do Museums Have a Responsibility to Care?” Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies. 37.2-3 (2015), a double special issue on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights co-edited by Angela Failler, Heather Milne and Peter Ives: 147-165.


“Colonialism, Neoliberalism, and University-Community Engagement: What sorts of encounters with difference are our institutions prioritizing?” In Unravelling Encounters: Ethics, Knowledge and Resistance Under Neoliberalism. Caitlin Janzen, Donna Jeffery, and Kristin Smith, Eds. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015: 175-194.


“Haunting.” Invited contribution to “The Forty on Forty Project,” English Studies Canada 41.4 (2015), a special section that “celebrates the journal’s fortieth year of publication by highlighting forty leading scholars and their thoughts on what has radically changed the discipline since 1975.”


“Public Mourning and the Culture of Redress: Mayerthorpe, Air India, and Murdered or Missing Aboriginal Women.” Reconciling Canada: Critical Perspectives on the Culture of Redress. Eds. Jennifer Henderson and Pauline Wakeham. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.


“The Importance of Remembering in Relation: Juxtaposing the Air India and Komagata Maru Disasters.” Topia: Journal of Canadian Cultural Studies, 27 (Spring), 2012: 197-214.


“Can Names Implicate Us? The Memorial-Art of Rebecca Belmore and Janis Cole.” Public: Art, Culture, Ideas, 42: Traces, a special issue co-edited by Chloe Brushwood Rose and Mario Di Paolantonio, 2010: 101-112.


“Unfixing Imaginings of the City: Art, Gentrification and Cultures of Surveillance.” With Phanuel Antwi. Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture and Action, 4(2): What is the Radical Imagination?, a special issue co-edited by Max Haiven and Alex Khasnabish, 2010.


“Space, Temporality, History: Encountering Hauntings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.” The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined Region. Eds. Alvin Finkel, Sarah Carter, and Peter Fortna. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2010.


“Centennial hauntings: Reckoning with the 2005 celebration of Alberta’s history.” With Sharon Rosenberg and Kara Granzow. Memory Studies. 3.4 (2010): 395-412.


“Representing and Remembering Murdered Women: Thoughts on the Ethics of Critique.” ESC: English Studies in Canada. 34.2-3 (2008): 229-241.


“Teaching feminist activism: Reflections on an activism assignment in introductory Women’s Studies.” Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies. 29.4 (2007): 351-369.


“Does a Lesbian Need a Vagina like a Fish needs a Bicycle? Or, Would the ‘Real’ Lesbian Please Stand Up!” Canadian Woman Studies, 23(2/3), 2005: 92-101.


Journal Issues:

“Representations of Murdered and Missing Women.” Special Issue of West Coast Line 53. Eds. Amber Dean and Anne Stone. 41.1: (2007).