It is a great privilege to be present as a historian when technology is shifting the terms of our intellectual practice. Because of my belief that academic blogging is a game-changing moment for scholars and feminists, I was particularly excited when the Journal of Women's History asked me to organize this cluster of articles. Our call asked potential authors to think about "the emergence of blogging as a location for critical thought among women in the historical profession; historians of women, gender and sexuality; and feminist scholars who may, or may not be, historians." Among other things, we asked: "What role does self-publishing on the Internet play in a profession where merit is defined by scholarly review and a rigorous editorial process? Is blogging itself developing rules and practices that will inevitably produce intellectual and scholarly hierarchies similar to those that blogging seeks to dismantle? Does feminist blogging offer particular opportunities for enhanced conversation about race, sexuality, class and national paradigms, or does it tend to reproduce existing scholarly paradigms and silences within feminist scholarship?"
The call was properly printed, on actual paper, in the Journal of Women's History itself. It was then distributed in the online venues (list serves, e-newsletters, and wikis) that scholars now take for granted to support the work of conventional publication, conference organizing and the hiring of new faculty. But then it began to wander. Our call went up on Facebook, and a link (supported by Tiny.url) was tweeted on Twitter. Most effectively, perhaps, for several months, it was in view of an average 500 readers per day as a sidebar item on my own blog, Tenured Radical.1 From there it was picked up by RSS feed and delivered to the desktops of Tenured Radical followers; by LiveJournal sites that re-post automatically from my blog; and by scholarly blogs that make it their business to collate academic announcements and history business.
Already, perhaps, you are beginning to understand the wild world that feminist bloggers inhabit.
Our call drew a lively and inventive set of responses, originating in several disciplinary and interdisciplinary locations, from which the four [End Page 185] articles by Jennifer Ho, May Friedman, Marilee Lindemann, and Ann Little were developed. Rachel Leow, with whom I was e-acquainted through our mutual work on Cliopatria (a History News Network blog) agreed to comment.2
And we were off.
The blend of old media, new media, and newest media that supported the production of this roundtable underlines the different forms of scholarly collaboration and exchange that digital communication now facilitates. Just as the circulation of email often replaces face-to-face meetings in the academy, electronic platforms now support traditional connections among scholars even as they facilitate new ones. Prior to assembling the group of bloggers who contributed to this roundtable, I had met only one of the participants (Ann Little) in person, and spoken on the telephone to a second (Jennifer Ho). While Rachel Leow and I were able to meet briefly in Cambridge, England in spring 2010 to discuss the framing of the round table, my relationships with Marilee Lindemann and May Friedman remain electronic for now.
As feminist bloggers, this group assembled in this roundtable has many differences but we have at least two things in common. We all view ourselves as intellectuals; and we are all committed to feminist blogging as a literary practice, or tradition, that we are also inventing. This process of invention can be boundary breaking on a number of levels, and therefore, puts us in a position familiar to feminist scholars as we trouble conventional forms of intellectual respectability. "Academic blogging" can appear to be a contradiction for many of our non–blogging colleagues in the material, or what Little calls "the meat world." There is also a significant generational divide about the intellectual value of blogs; too many historians even remain skeptical of electronic scholarship that is refereed and governed by editorial boards. Blogging, in particular, is an activity associated most strongly with the young and the self-absorbed: this can render middle aged scholar-bloggers like Lindemann and myself even more suspect...