- Celebrating a Decade of Middle East Gender StudiesReflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies
This special issue celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS)—a joyful decade marked by the dramatic expansion of path-breaking new scholarship in Middle East gender studies. In this Introduction, I briefly trace the history of JMEWS and its parent organization, the Association for Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS), to mark some important historical milestones and to recognize those who have helped AMEWS and JMEWS to flourish.
JMEWS is the professional journal of AMEWS, one of the major affiliate organizations of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America. AMEWS was founded thirty years ago in 1984. Suad Joseph of the University of California-Davis led the way as the organization’s founder and first president. She was supported in her efforts by a dedicated group of Middle East feminist scholars from a wide variety of institutions and fields.
Early on and in the days before the Internet, AMEWS hosted a lively newsletter. The AMEWS newsletter was edited for some time by Middle East historian Eleanor Doumato and later by Middle East economist Jennifer Olmsted and was sent by mail to all AMEWS members. However, over the years, it was recognized that a newsletter alone could not meet the needs of the growing community of Middle East feminist scholars. Thus, in the early 2000s, a team of senior AMEWS members, including miriam cooke, Sondra Hale, and Suad Joseph, formed an AMEWS publication committee, headed by Hale. Together, they drafted a proposal for an AMEWS-affiliated journal, to be called the Journal of [End Page 1] Middle East Women’s Studies (JMEWS). Cooke pitched the idea for the journal to Janet Rabinowitch, then director of Indiana University Press (IUP). (Fortuitously, cooke and Rabinowitch happened to be seated together on an airplane while returning from a MESA conference.) This represented the beginning of JMEWS’s decade-long affiliation (2004–14) with IUP, a leading publisher of feminist journals.
At IUP, JMEWS was ably guided by a strong publications team, headed by Kathryn (Kate) Caras and Judith Caldwell. JMEWS’s editorial home was based at the University of Michigan (UM), where I was asked to serve as JMEWS’s founding editor. At that time, I was directing UM’s Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS), which was based in UM’s International Institute (II). The director of the II, noted Middle East political scientist Mark Tessler, provided strong support for the journal. Fortuitiously, we were also able to hire Alyssa Surges as JMEWS’s managing editor, a position that she had already held at the International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES). Logistical support for the journal was provided by UM-CMENAS under the able administration of Marya Ayyash. In short, JMEWS was “birthed” in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 2004 to 2006, with publication of the first two volumes (three issues each) before the journal rotated to its second home in California.
After two years in Michigan, historian Nancy Gallagher at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), who was at the time president of AMEWS, expressed an interest in editing JMEWS, soon convincing Sondra Hale, anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to co-edit. They decided the journal would have to be housed at UCLA, with subsidiary support from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Therefore, from 2006 to 2010, JMEWS thrived at UCLA under the auspices of the Women’s Studies Program (WSP, now the Department of Gender Studies), chaired by Christine Littleton, the Center for the Study of Women, directed by Kathleen McHugh, and with additional support from the G.E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES), directed by anthropologist Susan Slyomovics. Diane James was hired as JMEWS’s second managing editor, and Lara Deeb, anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine and then Scripps College, served as book review editor. As for funding support, the new director of CNES, Susan Slyomovics, had tipped [End Page 2] the balance of UCLA’s agreement to fund...