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Editor's Note

From: Journal of Women's History
Volume 16, Number 2, Summer 2004
pp. 6-8 | 10.1353/jowh.2004.0051

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Journal of Women's History 16.2 (2004) 6-8

Leila J. Rupp

By the time you are reading this, our editorial team will have ended a wonderful and stimulating eight-year run and have handed our "baby" over to Jean Allman and Antoinette Burton. Of course, the mechanics of the production process mean that each issue for the rest of this volume will slip slowly out of our grasp and into their eager and waiting hands. So although the Journal office will have moved in July, the first official volume from its new home will appear in 2005.

As I write this, I am also thinking about my upcoming luncheon talk for the Coordinating Council for Women in History at the American Historical Association conference in January 2004. Eileen Boris, CCWH co-president, invited me to speak about the Journal of Women's History, and we came up with the edgy title, "Confessions of a 'Journal Girl,' or What Editing the Journal of Women's History Tells Us About Where We Are Now." I won't say any more here about the "confessions" part, but "where we are now" is very much on my mind as we prepare to hand over the torch.

One thing I have been struck by is our continuing reluctance, in general, to come to grips with theory in our empirical work. Early on in our editorship, we solicited contributions to a new section of the Journal we called "Theory in Practice." Despite persistent attempts to woo scholars to write about how they used theory in their research and how it enhanced that work and also what difficulties they encountered, we succeeded in publishing only two contributions, Lisa Duggan grappling with poststructuralism and Claire Robertson with feminist materialism. We have, admittedly, published lots of pieces under the rubric "Theoretical Issues," but it was the conscious thinking about how theory works out in practice that we were seeking. We still are.

There are many other things I could say about where we are now, but I want instead to anticipate Joan Scott in this issue and think about where we are going. Our retrospectives on classic books, articles, and concepts make me wonder, what are the classic articles of the future? Our discussions of sources and methods in "Getting to the Source" prompt me to ask, will we ever develop or adopt any new methods? Our considerations of "Women's History in the New Millennium" cause me to think of the trajectory from compensatory and heroic history through oppression history to agency, of the social relations of the sexes, women's culture, and the social construction of gender, and to wonder, what will be our new conceptual frameworks?

Where are we headed? I think we will continue to resolve the apparent oppositions between women's history and gender history, oppression and agency, experience and discourse. I think we will continue to incorporate theoretical insights from other disciplines without throwing ourselves entirely into them, and that we will continue to contribute historical perspective to those other disciplines and theories. And I think—optimist that I am—that we will move to incorporate theory into our empirical work on a larger scale.

Despite this climbing out on a limb, I have been as reluctant as most of us to think about the future that Joan Scott addresses so eloquently in her contribution to "The Future of Women's History." Employing the term "feminism's history" in multiple and provocative ways, Scott urges us to embrace our passion for women's history and, like the Muses, to take flight into the future. From different perspectives, Afsaneh Najmabadi and Evelynn Hammonds reflect on Scott's powerful and optimistic analysis. Najmabadi questions whether our reluctance to take up theory in the way that feminist scholars in science studies have has blocked our thinking about the future and limited our impact on the field as a whole. And Hammonds asks questions about power and politics, connecting our collective dilemmas as women's historians to what she calls the "Condoleezza Rice Problem" for African American feminist scholars.

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley's article on a little-known Muslim women's organization in India responds...

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