An Introduction to the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies

JMEWS 11_1In this guest post written by Frances S. Hasso on behalf of the co-editors of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, we learn more about the aesthetic changes undertaken during the transition to Duke University Press, both inside and outside the journal.

As the Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill team (miriam cooke, Banu Gökarıksel, and Frances Hasso) took over editorial responsibilities for the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies in spring 2014, we discussed ways to build on a 10-year strong publishing project that charted a pathway for gender and sexuality scholarship on the Middle East and North Africa. We decided that the skill, creativity, resources and dedication offered by the journal’s new publisher, Duke University Press, allows us to experiment with aesthetics inside and outside the journal. As part of this direction, each volume will highlight the ouevre of an artist whose work speaks to the concerns of the journal. In choosing images, we are interested in non-representational conceptually evocative art.

In 2015, each cover design of a JMEWS issue includes an image from a work by the Iraqi artist Havy Kahraman. The first issue, 11:1, also has a short essay by Kahraman that among other things meditates on the waraq (deck of cards) series from which the image on the cover emerges. Striking to us as well was an image of a cow skin on a palette. The skin was later used by Kahraman in an art installation. The cow skin on the palette image is part of the 11:2 cover designed by Sue Hall. In summer 2014 when we chose the image, the starkness of the cow skin evoked the grimness of tumult and violence in parts of the region. Issue 11:2 will include a short concept note by Kahraman on the skin installation and a brief glossing on the image by Frances Hasso in light of the articles published, all of which seemed to speak to “skin” in different ways. These changes in the journal are part of an emergent dialogic process between words and aesthetics that produce journal issues composed of digital parts, certainly, but also wholes that are wonderful to touch, read, and share in paper.

Another change is the addition of a new section called “Third Space.” The idea is to offer a forum for short intellectual, activist, and artistic interventions by academics and non-academics—an open meeting space for images and writings of between 500 and 2,000 words. Each year, Third Space will also include the results of an editorial initiative. In 2015, Third Space includes solicited entries from autonomous “Feminist Formations” throughout the region whose activists were asked to discuss their own priorities and challenges in the current historical moment. A total of 14 of these illuminating entries are published in issues 11:1 and 11:2 of JMEWS. We plan to publish at least seven more Feminist Formation entries in 11:3. It has been rewarding to work with activists with significant stakes in their own societies and to glimpse their work and challenges, from Morocco to Iran.

The Third Space initiative for 2016 (vol. 12) is “The Languages of Gender and Sexuality.” For this project, activists and academics are invited to submit analytical entries of 500 to 1,000 words that consider regional debates around, and implications of, the words used for sexual difference in non-English languages and contexts, including the problematics of translation. As with all aspects of JMEWS, we hope this initiative is informative and productive for new thinking and connections across various divides.

For the next three months, the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies will be freely available at The journal will also be available on Project MuseTo subscribe or learn more about submissions, visit

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