- Introduction: Feminist Periodical Studies
The essays collected in this special issue of American Periodicals are all, in one way or another, inspired by the Publishing Feminisms Conference held in Banff, Alberta in 2015. The call for papers for that conference was broad. Conference participants considered two key questions. What can print culture tell us about feminism’s past(s), its present articulations, and its future aspirations? What role does feminist print culture—a category that includes zines, periodicals, feminist presses, scholarly periodicals, popular periodicals, textbooks, blogs—play in the expansion of feminist politics, perspectives, and communities?
We maintained that the conference would expand feminist print culture studies, and specifically feminist periodical studies, by facilitating analyses of contemporary texts and communities. The goal of the Publishing Feminisms Conference was to explore the relationships between post-1960s feminisms and feminist print culture—both the texts themselves and the production and distribution mechanisms that support them. The conversations that we had in conference sessions, over lunch, and while hiking the trails in the Rocky Mountain town of Banff confirmed a shared sense that despite a dramatic expansion of scholarship in the fields of print culture studies, publishing, and periodical studies in the last two decades, there was a surprising lack of emphasis on feminist periodical publishing.
While the field has expanded tremendously in the last decade, there has been limited engagement with feminist periodicals published in the wake of the women’s movement’s second wave. Undoubtedly, feminist scholarship on Victorian women’s magazines, women’s suffrage journals, and even modernist magazines is vast and inspiring. Readers of this journal may be familiar with foundational work in this area by authors like Margaret Beetham, James P. Dankey, Lucy Delap, Maria DiCenzo, Barbara Green, Dean Irvine, Leila Ryan, and Wayne A. Wiegand.1 But we wondered what could be gained from bringing post-1960 feminist publications into the orbit of publishing studies. How might this move transform periodical [End Page 93] studies? How might it respond to questions shaping contemporary feminist scholarship and theories?
A brief look at the aims and publishing history of American Periodicals, for instance, reveals limited engagement with feminist periodicals published after the second wave of the women’s movement—despite the explicit articulation, in the editor’s note from the first issue of American Periodicals, of an interest in the “special nature of the feminist press.”2 While the engagement has been limited, there are two influential exceptions: a 2015 essay by feminist publishing studies scholar and editor of the multicultural lesbian literary and art journal Sinister Wisdom, Julie Enszer, and a 2008 essay by Alison Piepmeier, best known for her work reviewed in this issue, Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. Enszer’s “‘Fighting to Create and Maintain Our Own Black Women’s Culture’: Conditions Magazine, 1977–1990” examines the editorial shift that transformed Conditions into a multiracial, multicultural, and multiclass periodical.3 Like the articles collected in this special issue, Enszer’s analysis of the magazine’s life cycle enables her to challenge the often taken-for-granted assertions that the 1980s were marked by a decline of feminism as well as the more problematic belief that feminist culture, theory, and politics were the products of white women activists.
Piepmeier’s “Why Zines Matter: Materiality and the Creation of Embodied Community” expands the archive of American periodical studies by insisting on the inclusion of feminist zines, a point that she further develops in Girl Zines. In her 2008 American Periodicals essay, Piepmeier looked at four zines—I’m So Fucking Beautiful, the East Village Inky, No Better Voice, and Fragments of Friendship—to examine what she terms “the embodied community created by zines,” a concept that is taken up by Danika Jorgensen-Skakum in this issue.4 That such a key concept for feminist periodical studies found its first home in American Periodicals points to the openness of this journal to feminist periodical studies scholarship, as does this special issue. By publishing work in American Periodicals, feminist periodical studies scholars can initiate dialogue with textual artifacts and publishing practices from other fields while influencing the larger field of periodical studies...