Heather Smyth

Associate Professor

Photo of Heather Smyth.
PhD, Alberta
MA, Guelph
BA, Queen's

Extension: 46027



My research in social justice studies bridges humanities and social science methods. In literature studies, I work within the fields of postcolonial and transnational studies with an emphasis on gender and sexuality, and guided by critical race studies approaches.  Caribbean literature and Canadian multiracial literature are areas of focus. For several years I have been working in community-based research: I am pursuing qualitative data-gathering projects in collaboration with social services and nonprofit agencies and people with lived experiences of homelessness, substance use, sex work, transphobia, and racial oppression (please see “The 24 Hour Drop-in at Sistering” for an example, located at https://uwaterloo.ca/scholar/hsmyth). These projects’ findings are used for education and advocacy by community partners and for academic publication (e.g. my work in progress on discourses of harm reduction, & advocacy and narrative change). These two fields cross over in my work exploring literatures and rhetorics of advocacy and activism.

I have been with the Department of English Language and Literature since 2003. I have taught undergraduate courses in Academic Writing, Race and Resistance, Gender in Literature, Global Literatures, Literary Criticism, Postcolonial Literatures, and Postcolonial Literatures of the Americas. My graduate courses focus on topics such as “Creolization and hybridity in postcolonial studies,” “Caribbean literature: home, exile, diaspora,” “Gender in postcolonial literatures,” “Social justice and representation in Canadian literatures,” and “Advocacy and activism: literature, rhetoric, praxis.”

Selected publications

“The Black Atlantic Meets the Black Pacific: Multimodality in Kamau Brathwaite and Wayde Compton.” Callaloo: Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters 37.2 (2014): 389-403.

“African Diaspora and Coalition: Multiracial Writing and Arts Activism in Canada.” Diasporas, Cultural Mobilities,‘Race’ 3: African Americans and the Black Diaspora. Ed. Corinne Duboin and Claudine Raynaud. Montpellier, France: Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2016. 257-274.

Co-edited (with Leslie Sanders). Critical Perspectives on Dionne Brand. Special double issue of MaComère: Journal of the Association of Caribbean Women Writers and Scholars 14.1-2 (2013-14).

“‘She had made a beginning too’: Beka Lamb and the Caribbean Feminist Bildungsroman.” Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 44.2 (Summer 2011): 181-204.

“Indigenizing Sexuality and National Citizenship: Shyam Selvadurai’s Cinnamon Gardens.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 40.2-3 (2009): 1-22.

“Mollies Down Under: Crossdressing and Australian Masculinity in Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 18.2 (May 2009): 185-214.

“‘The Being Together of Strangers’: Dionne Brand’s Politics of Difference and the Limits of Multicultural Discourse.” Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne 33.1 (2008): 272-290.

“‘Roots beyond roots’: Heteroglossia and feminist creolization in Myal and Crossing the Mangrove.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 12 (September 2002): 1-24.

“The Mohawk Warrior: Reappropriating the Colonial Stereotype.” Topia: A Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies 3 (Spring 2000): 58-80.

“Sexual Citizenship and Caribbean-Canadian Fiction: Dionne Brand's In Another Place, Not Here and Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night.” ARIEL 30.2 (1999): 141-160.

“‘Lords of the World’: Writing Gender and Imperialism on Northern Space in C.C. Vyvyan’s Arctic Adventure.” Studies in Canadian Literature/Études en littérature canadienne 23.1 (1998): 32-52.

“‘Imperfect Disclosures’: Cross-dressing and Containment in Charles Brockden Brown's Ormond” in Sex and Sexuality in Early America. Ed. Merril D. Smith. New York:  NYUP, 1998. 240-261.

Grants, fellowships and awards

  • UW/SSHRC Explore Grant 2020
  • Bob Harding/Lois Claxton HSS Endowment Grant 2017
  • Women’s College Hospital Xchange Grant, 2017-18
  • UW/SSHRC Research Incentive Funding, 2012-13 and 2015-16
  • UW/SSHRC Seed Grant 2009
  • SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship 2001-03 (York University; OISE)
  • Honorary Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship 1997-99
  • SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship 1997-99

Current research

I am working on a book-length project, Coalition and Canadian Literature, which explores connections between literary collaboration, multiauthored texts, and critical race coalition. With teams of peer researchers and collaborators, I am researching social services advocacy, reading practices in harm reduction communities, sex workers’ peer group experiences, and Muslim women’s experiences of discrimination in employment.

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Postcolonial literatures and theory
  • Caribbean literature
  • Feminist theory
  • Canadian literature
  • Postcolonial queer studies, transgender studies
  • Community-based research