On Meridians: An Interview with Ginetta E. B. Candelario and Leslie Marie Aguilar

We are proud to be the new publisher of Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism. “Black Lives Matter” (volume 17, issue 1), the first issue published by Duke University Press, is now availablecoverimage. We recently sat down with editor Ginetta E. B. Candelario, Professor of Sociology and Latin American & Latino/a Studies at Smith College, and editorial assistant Leslie Marie Aguilar to discuss their vision for the journal’s future.

DUP: Tell us a bit about the journal’s mission.

GinettaMeridians was founded almost twenty years ago now, explicitly with the mandate and mission to publish scholarship by and about women of color, feminisms, and transnationalisms. Therefore, our philosophy is to offer a venue for interdisciplinary scholarship focused on the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, class, citizenship, etc. not only in the United States, but also, more broadly, transnationally and internationally. This is connected to supporting and growing the pipeline of women of color scholars and knowledge producers who are woefully underrepresented in the US academy, often in part because the questions they ask, the methodologies they use, and their theories are not status-quo-maintaining questions, methodologies, and theories. Which means that prior to Meridians, there were very few traditional disciplinary journals that were interested in their work, or that would recognize the value of the work they were doing. So like Signs, Feminist Studies, and so forth, Meridians had a broader demographic and professional development vision.

However, unlike those other feminist publications, we have always been intersectional. From the beginning, we were interested in thinking about race, nation, and transnationalism. Accordingly, our editorial philosophy is to showcase work that is fundamentally interdisciplinary, even if it’s being produced by scholars, such as myself, who might also have a disciplinary home. I’m a sociologist who is also a Latin Americanist, a Latin@ studies scholar, and a women’s studies scholar. I embrace my sociology identity, but I have never published in a sociology journal, and I probably wouldn’t, because it’s typically not a welcoming intellectual space or a home for the kind of work that I’m interested in doing.

We think women of color epistemologies are expressed through multiple genres. Meridians is unique in the sense that it offers a space for both evidence-based, research-based scholarship alongside creative and cultural work—everything from poetry to visual images, whether it’s photography, or paintings, or one-dimensional reproductions of three-dimensional works, to memoir and creative non-fiction kinds of work. We view each of these genres as equally valuable forms of knowledge. In any given issue, you’ll see a research-based piece followed by a poem that is speaking to similar or related concerns that the research piece is exploring in another way. So the philosophy then is really to showcase women of color knowledge production in all these genres and all these forms.

Leslie: This philosophy also drives our desire to increase creative writing as a key component of Meridians. Part of my being brought on board, as a poet, was to vet creative writing and poetry submissions, but it was also to increase Meridians’s visibility within my own networks and within the larger group of activist artists as well. Bridging the gap that typically exists between scholars, activists, and artists is what we’re hoping to accomplish with Meridians. I think that’s a great way that our roles complement one another—Ginetta is the scholar and I’m the creative writer.

So even on our masthead, it’s apparent that we’re trying to create and curate an intersectional space for knowledge production. That’s our vision moving forward, to braid all of these ideas in different forms of knowledge production into the cohesive project that is Meridians.

Moreover, we are committed to making the content of our journal as openly available as possible. Our recently redesigned website will showcase multimedia work related to our published content. So, for example, one of our contributors from 17:1 submitted a poem that is actually a spoken word piece. It’s one dimensional when it’s on the page; but instead of having the poem remain a static object, we invited the contributor to record herself performing the piece. We plan to host her recording on our website so that it is openly available to subscribers and would-be readers of the journal. This endeavor is meant to highlight the different ways our readership encounters the pieces published in Meridians. You don’t necessarily just have to experience them on the written page. There are different emotions elicited whether you are reading an article, or seeing a photograph, or hearing a spoken-word poem. So, in a lot of ways it’s an activist agenda.

DUP:  Ginetta, tell us about your role as editor and your overall goals for the publication.

Ginetta: I am the fourth faculty editor of the journal. However, I’ve been involved with Meridians from its inception actually, because I joined the faculty at Smith College just after Meridians was conceived, if you will, and was there when it was birthed on campus. It’s the brainchild, the baby, of what used to be the Women’s Studies program. The first editorial group was a collective of Smith faculty (whose names are listed on our masthead, by the way). From there they expanded into a Smith-Wesleyan collective because Wesleyan University Press agreed to publish Meridians. Thus, after I was published in Meridians Volume 1, Number 1, I became part of what was then the Smith-Wesleyan Editorial Group.

Now, as editor, my role is establishing the intellectual vision of the journal moving forward. I’m a Latin Americanist who also does Afro-diasporic work, a Latin@ studies scholar who does feminist work, and a women’s studies scholar who does woman of color work, so my networks are somewhat different than my predecessors. I am really interested in growing the existing transnational part of our journal’s mandate and, by extension, its multilingualism. Having languages other than English represented in our submissions, whether those are scholarly essays or creative work, is important to us. We are moving in that direction already.

DUP: What are some of the highlights over the past year in your role as editor?

Ginetta: We recently transitioned to Duke University Press, so our first year working together was really about closing out the relationship with our former publisher and fulfilling commitments. In some ways Leslie’s and my first issues were 16:1 and 16:2, but they didn’t feel like they were truly ours, because we were finishing someone else’s recipe. That’s why in my “Editor’s Introduction” to 17:1, I say that it really feels like our first issue—because we curated it fully, and those contributions came in under our editorship.

Another highlight is that we’ve reconstituted our Editorial Advisory Board into a Smith-Duke board to honor and celebrate the relationship with Duke University Press.

Finally, we also instituted the Paula J. Giddings Best Essay Award that we’ll be presenting for the first time at this year’s National Women’s Studies Association conference. Paula will be present to deliver the award to the junior scholar whose article was selected by our Editorial Advisory Board.

Leslie: Another highlight for the journal has been bringing back student internships and providing cocurricular opportunities for Smith College students. We are providing pathways to professionalization, consistent with Meridians’s mandate to mentor women of color. Reinstituting these internships is one way that we’re amplifying Smith’s mission to educate women of promise for lives of distinction, but also to diversify the pipeline for the larger publishing community. Seeing our interns blossom has been a highlight for me as their supervisor, and I am looking forward to seeing where they’ll go after having Meridians as a guide and a reference. That’s been something we’ve been really proud of this past year.

DUP: How do you see the journal evolving over the next few years?

Ginetta: A central agenda for us is to internationalize the transnational aspect of the journal. One of the things that we are moving to next, in terms of our priorities, is reconfiguring our Transnational Advisory Board so that half of the board comprises scholars, cultural workers, and knowledge producers located outside the United States, in the major regions of Africa, in the Indian subcontinent, in China, the Middle East, and the Asian Pacific Island area. Not only will they contribute to the work we’re doing, but Meridians will be visible in the worlds that these individuals are inhabiting as knowledge producers across the globe. The hope is not just that we will be part of the conversations that are happening in those places but also that folks producing there will send their submissions to us. That is one of our big agendas: growing our international presence and the presence of the international in our journal.

Leslie: Also, part of our forward vision is to highlight the founding goals of Meridians. This is evident in our decision to bring back subsections—“In the Archives,” “Counterpoint,” “Media Matters,” etc.—within the journal. There’s something sort of poetic in that choice, a retrospective looking back in order to see where we’re headed.

DUP: Tell me more about your first fully curated issue of Meridians.

Ginetta: “Black Lives Matter,” Volume 17, Number 1, is the first issue that we fully curated. It is a black women’s activism and resiliency issue, because that’s where we’re at in this historical moment. This issue both commemorates and historicizes the presence and work of these feminists in the US and elsewhere across the world and their ties to us—the fact that we are part of a broader international transnational feminist community of knowledge producers, and that we’ve been influencing one another and supporting one another. We’re trying to honor and commemorate while also sustain hope moving forward. We’re very excited about the issue.

DUP: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?

Leslie: We’re in the process of developing a creative writing award at the moment. If you’re accepted into the journal you’re automatically in the pool of applicants for this particular award. We’re still working on the finer details, but that’s where Meridians is hoping to go, in order to highlight the creative aspect of Meridians, and showcase it a bit more moving forward.

 

 

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