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Popular Culture: A User's Guide, 4th Edition

By Susie O'Brien, Imre Szeman
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Soft Cover
ISBN-10: 0176700145
ISBN-13: 9780176700140
Publisher: Top Hat
Edition: 4th

Popular Culture: A User’s Guide is an introduction to the critical study of popular culture. The authors aim to provide students with the analytical tools to understand everyday practices and their role both as consumers of and participants in popular culture. The authors believe that because of our common familiarity with popular culture, it is even more critical that we engage in reflection, exploration, and analysis. To that end, the text includes a large number of case studies, close-up boxes, and suggested activities that help students make connections and better understand and interpret the world around them. The fourth edition captures and reflects the many changes and developments in contemporary culture, while still maintaining its central focus of challenging students to examine the world around them.


  • *NEW* Chapter 1 includes information about how mass culture has taken on features of folk culture through widespread usage of social media.
  • *NEW* Chapter 3 has an expanded discussion of the mythology of youth crime.
  • *NEW* There is more overall on how racialized and LBGTQ people and people with disabilities are represented in popular culture.
  • *NEW* A new Close-Up box in Chapter 7 features the debates about Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor's theory of the recognition of cultural identity.
  • *NEW* Chapter 10 has a new investigation of how 'living online' affects issues such as government and corporate access to personal information, and the use of social media as a communication tool.
  • Found on the companion website (, students have free access to Simon Orpana's The Art of Gentrification: A Zine about Art, Urban Space and Politics. This zine tries to puzzle out a key conundrum of contemporary urban life. This complements what the students are learning from the text.
  • The text is organized around broad themes rather than specific genres or forms of popular culture.
  • The text is book-ended by chapters that focus on the prehistory of contemporary culture (Chapter 1) and on the complexities of our current world (Chapter 10).
  • The politics of popular culture is emphasized throughout.
  • A focus on Canadian examples and situations, and a focus on the Canadian perspective on Western pop culture.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Introducing Popular Culture
  • Chapter 2: The History of Popular Culture
  • Chapter 3: Representation and the Construction of Social Reality
  • Chapter 4: The Production of Popular Culture
  • Chapter 5: The Consuming Life
  • Chapter 6: Identity and the Body
  • Chapter 7: Identity, Community, Collectivity
  • Chapter 8: Subcultures and Countercultures
  • Chapter 9: Globalization and Environment
  • Chapter 10: Popular Culture in the 21st Century

Author Information

Susie O'Brien

Susie O'Brien is a professor in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, where she is also currently Associate Director, Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition.

Imre Szeman

Imre Szeman is Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies and Professor of English, Film Studies and Sociology at the University of Alberta. He conducts research on and teaches in the areas of social and cultural theory, film and visual culture, globalization and nationalism, and Canadian studies. Szeman is the recipient of the John Polanyi Prize in Literature (2000), the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award (2003), the Scotiabank–AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization (2004), an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (2005–7), and the President's Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision at McMaster University (2008), among other awards. He is the founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and a founding member of the US Cultural Studies Association. Szeman is founding editor of Reviews in Cultural Theory and a member of the editorial collective of the journal Mediations. Current projects include a book on the cultural politics of oil, an edited collection on energy and culture, and research on the aesthetics and politics of contemporary documentary film.