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NWSA Journal 15.1 (2003) vii-x

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Webbing the West and the World


Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. . . . [w]hen the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in midair by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.

—Virginia Woolf ([1929] 1957, 43-4)

Virginia Woolf's web, in A Room of One's Own, is just as relevant in portraying the various connections we make with women around the world as it is in understanding fiction. So our cover "Beaded Web," by graduate assistant Suzanne Savell, portrays the material spider web, spun out of herself by the female spider in one evening, and glistening with morning dew. Female spiders build webs by spinning out silk, beginning with a bridge thread, to which the first radius is fastened. This becomes the hub; all other radii are secured from there, and only after they are complete does the spider spin out the sticky spiral threads connecting them. Each web has only one hub, but radii are connected not only to the hub, but also to each other by means of the spiral threads. The bridge threads connecting women have begun, and the various hubs are to be found in places around the world.

In the same way that the bridge threads and hubs are formed, this issue of the NWSA Journal takes us far afield and close to home. We are far afield with articles from two "new" disciplines: economics and the physical sciences—new in the sense that we have not previously published feminist research from scholars in those disciplines; we are connecting them to our hub of feminist scholarship. We are close to home with Eloise Buker's article that continues our ongoing discussion of Women's Studies as a discipline. As a way to frame her interrogation, Buker compares Women's Studies to her own discipline of political science. Jean O'Barr and Stephanie Shields report on the Ph.D. in Women's Studies conference at Emory University in October 2001 with a listing of relevant information from all twelve U.S. universities offering the Ph.D. The web continues with McGuire and Reger's article on feminist co-mentoring: each co-mentor becomes a hub in the web of the bridges and radii of our lives. And Stephanie Gilmore's study of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in Memphis in the 1970s uses contemporary historical methodology to "get at" a local situation, close to home, in many ways different from the received opinion about the era. Gilmore shows how the issues chosen from the group's activism were both liberal and radical and very much determined by the local scene. NOW members worked on the ERA, yes, but also emphasized the issues of domestic violence, women's street safety, and rape prevention. [End Page vii]

The lead article for this issue spins out bridge threads as it compares the indigenous and the colonial in two cultures, halfway around the world from each other, in the narratives of two fictional films. Caroline Brown asserts that, in both Jane Campion's The Piano and Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust, indigenous Others are silenced in order to "create and sustain a space of individuality and revolt for the female protagonist." A sentimentalization of the past is coupled with its critique as the circumference of the web grows from Georgia's Sea Islands in the United States to New Zealand.

The web connecting us all, "attached to life at all four corners," was especially to be found at the July 2002 8th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women, at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, where over 2000 delegates gathered, to report on, understand, and try to make sense of the web's connections: "grossly material things, like health and money and the...


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