Skip to main content
Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo
COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Merson Emily, Assistant Professor


Emily Merson’s research and teaching in International Relations specializes in Decolonial, Feminist, and Cultural Political Economy theories and methods of global power. Her research emphasizes how contemporary artwork and popular cultures are sites of political struggle and empowerment, in particular focusing on projects that invite audiences to think critically about popular imaginations of sovereignty. Her work looks at the agency of artists and audiences to envision and enact transformative change in political conditions. Emily’s current research project on speculative fiction about climate action includes archival research on Octavia E. Butler’s papers at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in California.


Her teaching emphasizes the value of critical theories for naming global power hierarchies and understanding our agency to transform political conditions. A top priority of her teaching is to make International Relations theory accessible for students. One of her strategies for doing this is experiential education, when public gatherings are safe. For instance students have options to participate in events at local cultural institutions and then research a paper on a political theme based on their experience of that art exhibition, film screening, archival research, etc. At all times she incorporates opportunities for students to think with creative projects such as films, short stories, and comics alongside IR theory texts. The key learning objectives are to think critically about how our everyday lives are situated in global contexts and to cultivate students’ abilities to ask critical questions about global politics.


Emily is a Canadian settler. Her book “Creative Presence: Settler Colonialism, Indigenous Self-Determination, and Decolonial Contemporary Artwork” is based on her dissertation and was published in October 2020 by the Rowman & Littlefield International book series ‘Kilombo: International Relations and Colonial Questions’. Her transnational feminist intersectional analysis focuses on artwork by Indigenous contemporary visual and performance artists engaging with themes of colonialism and decolonization in the context of Canada. “Creative Presence” is a method and a framework for understanding how artists’ purposeful selection of materials, media forms, and place-making in their exhibitions and performances unsettles International Relations colonial theories of sovereignty and participates in Indigenous reclamations of lands and waterways in world politics.


Emily is the Editor and author of the introduction chapter in “The Art of Global Power: Artwork and Popular Cultures as World-Making Practices” published by the Routledge 'Popular Culture and World Politics' book series in February 2020. In this book, contributors draw on their experiences across arts, activist and academic communities to theorize and demonstrate diverse methods of writing about how the global politics of colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy can be transformed through artistic labour and participation in popular cultures.


Ph.D., York University


M.A., York University


B.A. (Honours), University of Toronto


Undergraduate (2021 – 2022)

POLSCI 2I03-E Global Politics


POLSCI 3QQ3 Causes of War


POLSCI 4QQ3 Issues in International Politics: Popular Cultures and World Politics


POLSCI 2J03-E Global Political Economy


POLSCI 3LB3 Globalization and the World Order


POLSCI 3PA3-E Politics of Pandemics


POLSCI 4ST3 Special Topics in Contemporary Politics: Climate Action and the Futures of Global Politics


Merson, Emily. 2020. Creative Presence: Settler Colonialism, Indigenous Self-Determination and Decolonial Contemporary Artwork. London: Rowman & Littlefield International.


Merson, Emily, Editor. 2020. The Art of Global Power: Artwork and Popular Cultures as World-Making Practices. New York: Routledge.


Contributions to Books

Merson, Emily. 2020. “Introduction: Artwork and Popular Cultures as World-Making Practices” in The Art of Global Power: Artwork and Popular Cultures as World-Making Practices. New York: Routledge. Pages 1 – 20.


Journal Articles

Merson, Emily. 2017. “International Art World and Transnational Artwork: Creative Presence in Rebecca Belmore’s Fountain at the Venice Biennale” Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 46(1): 41 – 65.