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Meridians Four Years Later

By Jennifer Jennings '04

Now in its fourth year of publication, Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism is a vibrant, crossdisciplinary journal that provides a forum for creative and scholarly work by and about women of color. Since its inception, Meridians has grown into a diverse, broad-reaching journal with increasing visibility.

Current Meridians Senior Editor Myriam J. A. Chancy arrived at Smith in 2002 with the ambitious goal of opening the journal to an even broader audience -- one that is not solely academic. One way she has sought to do this is by using more artwork. Last spring's issue includes cover art by Gabriela Munoz, and the upcoming spring issue will feature a photo essay. Cover art is in itself unusual in an academic journal. "I wanted to make it a more inviting product, so that when they (the consumers) pick up Meridians they feel good about what they are picking up," Chancy explains.

Meridians features the work of such well-established scholars and writers as Angela Davis, Lucille Clifton and Maryse Condé as well as authors who are young or relatively unknown or unpublished. The journal publishes essays, poems, short fiction and interviews; all submissions go through an extensive peer review process before being accepted for publication. Covering an array of topics, recent issues included an article by Sonia Alvarez, "Translating the Global: Effects of Transnational Organizing on Local Feminist Discourses and Practices in Latin America," as well as a memoir, "Dreaming in the Delta," by Kristal Brent Zook.

The process of producing a biannual journal is continuous, Chancy explains, with three issues of Meridians in different stages of production at all times. Each submission is read by two peer reviewers, and if there is a disagreement between them, an additional reviewer will be added. The entire review process takes from three to five months.

Meridians was founded in 1996 as a joint project of Smith College and Wesleyan University, with the enthusiastic support of former Smith President Ruth Simmons. The first issue was produced in fall 2000, with a substantial grant from the Ford Foundation, by a Smith/Wesleyan editorial collective chaired by Susan Van Dyne, professor of women's studies at Smith. When Meridians began, the board decided that initially the journal should be directed by two outside senior editors who would each serve two-year terms, to provide expertise and guidance. Kum-Kum Bhavnani, a sociologist from the University of California at Santa Barbara, was the first senior editor. Chancy is the second. She will finish her term in 2004, and editorial duties will be assumed by a member of the Smith faculty.

An associate professor of English at Arizona State University, Chancy is also teaching in the women's studies department at Smith during her stay as editor. She is not only a writer and scholar but also a photographer.

To further promote visibility, Meridians sponsored a reading series by Carribean women authors in October. "Voices from Hispaniola: Haiti and the Dominican Republic" featured writers Edwidge Danticat, Loida Maritza Pérez, Nelly Rosario and Chancy. The Ford Foundation sponsored the event with a women's cooperative and International Childcare as informal sponsors. This spring Meridians will present another event titled "Women of Color, Welfare and Access to Higher Education."

Meridians is now being published by Indiana University Press and will be included in its online publication group "Project Muse," which will further increase its visibility and opportunities to reach new subscribers.

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