She is a researcher, sociologist and writer in the area of new religious movements (popularly known as "cults"). She received her Ph.D. from Concordia University where she is an Affiliate Professor and Part-time Instructor and teaches courses, including "Cults and Religious Controversy." She is also a Member of the Religious Studies Faculty at McGill University. Her research area has always been in the field of New Religious Movements. Some of her books focus on themes in new religious studies, such as charisma, gender and family, millennialism, healing, anticult movement. Most of her research has taken place in Quebec, the U.S. and in France.
Susan J. Palmer has developed an interest in religious freedom issues, human rights, and in studying legal disputes involving religious minorities. She has written about antisectisme (in France) and anticultism (in the U.S.). Her most recent book, The New Heretics of France (Oxford, 2011), describes the rise of the government-sponsored antisecte movement in France, and the opposition and discrimination experienced by French citizens whose spiritual association was on the National Assembly’s Guyard list of 173 sectes. Her previous book, The Nuwaubian Nation: Black Spirituality and State Control (Ashgate, 2010), explores the escalating opposition to a Black nationalist messianic movement whose leader tried to establish a “sovereign nation” in rural Georgia that was raided by the FBI. Her next book, co-authored with Stuart Wright, Storming Zion: Government Raids on Religions is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in October, 2015.
Palmer has been the recipient of five Canadian federal SSHRC grants that have facilitated her research, and has also been awarded grants from the U.S. (Association for the Sociology of Religion, and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion), and from India (the Shastri Postdoctoral Fellowship).