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Journal of Middle East Women's Studies Moves to UCLAJMEWS co-editors Sondra Hale (left) and Nancy Gallagher welcome participants and the public to a UCLA conference put on by the Center for Near Eastern Studies. (Photos by Jonathan Friedlander)

Journal of Middle East Women's Studies Moves to UCLA

CNES hosts a conference marking the arrival of JMEWS's editorial operation at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. UCLA's Sondra Hale and UCSB's Nancy Gallagher will serve as co-editors.

By Kevin Matthews
Senior Writer

Examples of relatively underrepresented fields are Turkish culture and the cinema of the whole region.

As one of eight American universities offering a PhD in Women's Studies, and one of two in North America offering a PhD in Islamic Studies, UCLA is a logical place to seek fresh contributors for a journal focusing on women in a very broadly defined Middle East. Previously edited by University of Michigan Middle East studies director Marcia C. Inhorn, the two-year-old Journal of Middle East Women's Studies (JMEWS), published three times a year, is moving to a new editorial shop in the UCLA Center for the Study of Women. The first issue under the leadership of co-editors Nancy E. Gallagher, a UC–Santa Barbara historian who directs Middle Eastern studies on that campus, and Sondra Hale, a professor of women’s studies and anthropology at UCLA, will appear early in 2007. Diane James of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies will serve as senior editor.

CNES hosted a conference July 10–11, 2006, to mark the arrival of JMEWS on campus, with help from CSW and UCSB and with Hale and Gallagher as organizers of panels. Published by Indiana University Press, JMEWS is the official publication of the international Association of Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS). The journal has secured four years of funding from the UCLA Office of the Dean of Social Sciences.

Miriam Cooke

Well attended by members of the public and UCLA students, the conference featured presentations by UC-Davis' Suad Joseph, Duke University's Miriam Cooke (pictured), UCLA's Susan Slyomovics, and other prominent scholars.

When not discussing the speakers' academic works-in-progress, conference participants met about the future of JMEWS, which is still in the processes of building its clientele, according to Hale. In an effort to boost readership, the journal is entering partnerships with full-text online services such as Project Muse, available from most research libraries. To keep subscriptions up, the editors will avoid special thematic issues in favor of unrelated articles. That is a trade-off, says Hale, since excellent scholarly work often comes out of premeditated collections.

According to Hale, conference participants wanted JMEWS to reflect the range of topics studied and methods employed by scholars of the Middle East and, beyond that, to repair in some degree persistent gaps and imbalances in AMEWS members' representation of the region. Examples of relatively underrepresented fields are Turkish culture and the cinema of the whole region, Hale says.

Geographically, the editors intend to define the Middle East "in the broadest possible way," she says. The utility of the regional label itself was a subject of discussion at the conference, since the journal's concerns naturally lead to coverage of North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and populous Muslim nations of Southeast Asia. JMEWS also takes in studies of Arab and Middle Eastern diaspora communities in the United States, among other places.

At the opening of the conference, CNES Director Leonard Binder welcomed JMEWS as a resource that "epitomizes the intellectual style in which area studies ought to be pursued," referring to its multidisciplinary orientation and search for "explanation rather than codification."

Members of UCLA's Near East faculty with strong interests in the study of women have included a pioneer of the field, the historian Nikki Keddie; Afaf Marsot, also an emerita professor of history; Hale, who specializes in Sudan; and, most recently, Slyomovics, an anthropologist who comes to UCLA from MIT. Other UCLA faculty specialists in the study of women attending the JMEWS conference were historians Kathryn Norberg and Ellen DuBois and, from Classics and Comparative Literature, Katherine King. Norberg is a former co-editor of Signs, a leading journal in women's studies.

MIT's Open Courseware project features study materials on Middle Eastern anthropology gathered by Slyomovics.

Center for Near Eastern Studies