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Smith President To Be Featured Guest At
Nov. 16 Public Reception Celebrating Debut Issue

In the three decades since the first U.S. women's studies program was founded, the field has expanded to examine the lives and experiences of women in minority communities in this country as well as those far beyond this country's borders -- in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Recognizing this shift, and celebrating it, Smith College and Wesleyan University have joined forces to launch "Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism," the first peer-reviewed, scholarly journal devoted entirely to issues affecting the lives of women of color.

"This journal posits that women of color and their concerns need to be -- and, in fact, will be -- at the center of the academy's scholarly research agenda in coming years," explains Smith President Ruth J. Simmons, who has strongly supported the initiative as a way of bringing previously marginalized voices into the mainstream of academic life and of "contesting the norms of traditional disciplines."

Smith alumna and trustee Gloria Steinem has been an enthusiastic champion of the project. She notes that publication in an excellent, peer-reviewed journal may have the advantage of strengthening and legitimating the tenure bids of aspiring women scholars of color, especially those who work in new and interdisciplinary fields.

"Tenure for women of color has often been stymied by getting published in traditional scholarly journals," she explains. "Meridians is a brilliant cut at that Gordian knot, and a gift of a wider world for all readers."

The senior editor of Meridians is Kum-Kum Bhavnani, a sociologist from the University of California at Santa Barbara who is currently a Visiting Professor of women's studies at Smith. Bhavnani, a native of India, was raised and educated in Great Britain. She has a doctorate from Cambridge University and has published books and articles on race and feminism, Third-World development and critical social psychology. She brings considerable editorial experience to her new post, having served as a member of the editorial collective of "Feminist Review," as a founding associate editor of "Feminism and Psychology" and as a member of the editorial boards of "The Journal of Community and Applied Psychology" and "Sociological Perspectives."

Bhavnani notes that both she and the seven-member Smith/Wesleyan editorial collective that founded the journal and produced the first issue are committed to publishing works that are "both substantive and readable, and therefore relevant and useful to more than a narrow audience."

For Susan Van Dyne, chair of Smith's women's studies department and coordinator of the editorial collective until Bhavnani's arrival, Meridians is about giving scholarship on feminism, race and transnationalism the place it deserves in the academy.

"Even though feminist journals have tried to be inclusive, there's no existing publication that makes such scholarship central," Van Dyne asserts. "Until a journal like Meridians enables women of color to define the issues themselves, this vital scholarship is at risk of being marginalized or appearing anomalous."

With an initial press run of 1,750, the debut issue of Meridians is expected to be in the hands of subscribing individuals and libraries in late November. Start-up funds for the project were provided by Smith and Wesleyan and supplemented by a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

Smith President Simmons has strongly encouraged this initiative, as has Wesleyan President Douglas Bennet. Both have seen it as an opportunity to take a leadership role in recognizing women of color in their institutions' academic missions, as well as recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty of color.

A reception, to be held 4 ­ 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Neilson Library Browsing Room, will feature remarks by President Simmons about the significance of the journal and plans for its further development.

The reception is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

A biannual publication, Meridians is led by Bhavnani and guided by a local editorial group of Smith and Wesleyan faculty members as well as by a national editorial board of leading scholars, activists and artists, including Edna Acosta-Belén, Leila Ahmed, Ama Ata Aidoo, Amrita Basu, Rey Chow, Maryse Condé, Angela Davis, Cynthia Enloe, Paula Giddings, Wilma Mankiller, Toni Morrison, Nell Irvin Painter, Elena Poniatowska, Nawal El Saadawi and Vandana Shiva.

In addition to its strong and evocative essays, the inaugural issue also includes such features as "Counterpoints," an exchange among scholars and activists; "In the Trenches," featuring field reports on community and feminist activism around the world and classroom teaching practices; "Media Matters," a forum for reflections on popular culture; and "In the Archives," presenting historical documents useful in understanding the lives of women of color.

More information about Meridians, including submission guidelines and subscription information, is available at

Contact: Laurie Fenlason,, (413) 585-2190

November 7, 2000


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