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Northeastern celebrates arrival of leading women’s studies journal

Signs editor-in-chief Suzanna Walters

Northeastern and the College celebrated last week the arrival of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Suzanna Walters, Signs' new editor-in-chief, will not be afraid to ask—nor address—the “big questions.”

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity recently hosted a recep­tion to cel­e­brate the arrival of the leading inter­na­tional journal in womens and gender studies, which will be based in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties for the next five years.

Signs: Journal of Women in Cul­ture and Society pub­lishes path-​​breaking arti­cles, review essays, com­par­a­tive per­spec­tives, and ret­ro­spec­tives on gender, race, cul­ture, class, nation, and sexuality.

Signs has been fos­tering inno­va­tion and research on women and gender from mul­tiple per­spec­tives for the past 40 years,Uta Poiger, dean of the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, said in her intro­duc­tory remarks to Signsstake­holders on Jan. 22 in the Raytheon Amphithe­ater. The journals vision aligns with the col­leges vision to bol­ster its com­mit­ment to research excel­lence in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary work.

North­eastern was selected by an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary board of fem­i­nist scholars to serve as Signsedi­to­rial home until 2020. Suzanna Wal­ters, a pro­fessor of soci­ology and the director of Northeastern’s Womens, Gender, and Sex­u­ality Studies pro­gram, will serve as Signseditor-​​in-​​chief. Carla Kaplan, the Davis Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Amer­ican Lit­er­a­ture, will chair the journals board of asso­ciate editors.

Signs, which is pub­lished by the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Press, was founded in 1975 and has been based at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity since 2005. Each year, the journal receives more than 400 sub­mis­sions and pub­lishes more than 1,000 pages of fem­i­nist schol­ar­ship. Its schol­arly arti­cles are down­loaded more than 700,000 times per year from JSTOR, the pop­ular dig­ital library.

There is scarcely another journal in JSTOR with that record,said Mary Hawkesworth, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence and gender studies at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity, where she served as editor-​​in-​​chief for the past nine years. Signs is a journal with a big ambi­tionone that cuts across sci­ence, the human­i­ties, and the social sci­encesand people are reading it.

In her remarks, Wal­ters pre­sented a series of gov­erning prin­ci­ples that will guide her edi­to­rial decision-​​making. For one, she will not be afraid to asknor addressthe big ques­tions.

I think weve been scared lately to ask sweeping ques­tionsand fem­i­nist theory has become in some ways re-​​disciplined and balka­nized by an increas­ingly nar­rower purview,she said. But big ques­tions help create a cul­ture of fem­i­nist public intel­lec­tuals and a fem­i­nist public sphere that is wide-​​ranging, unapolo­getic, and allied.

Wal­ters also dis­cussed her com­mit­ment to dig­ital com­mu­ni­ca­tion, noting that the journal will include a seg­ment called Ask the Activist,which will live on its web­site and its social media chan­nels. Let us ride the dig­ital wave but do so thought­fully,she said. Trans­form the fem­i­nist tweet into the delib­er­a­tive theory. Help fem­i­nist blog­gers take up public space as fem­i­nist pun­dits.

Her edi­to­rial strategy will be shaped in part by Signsboard of 64 asso­ciate edi­tors, whose exper­tise runs from anthro­pology and reli­gious studies to music and phi­los­ophy. The team plans to col­lab­o­rate with a range of North­eastern part­ners, from the Civil Rights and Restora­tive Jus­tice Project in the School of Law to the NU Lab for Texts, Maps, and Net­works, the uni­ver­sitys center for dig­ital human­i­ties and com­pu­ta­tional social science.

It is a huge honor to chair this board, which rep­re­sents one of the most remark­able cross sec­tions of human­i­ties pos­sible,Kaplan said. We are as august a group as we are inter­dis­ci­pli­nary.

-By Jason Kornwitz

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