Northeastern University recently hosted a reception to celebrate the arrival of the leading international journal in women’s and gender studies, which will be based in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities for the next five years.
Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society publishes path-breaking articles, review essays, comparative perspectives, and retrospectives on gender, race, culture, class, nation, and sexuality.
“Signs has been fostering innovation and research on women and gender from multiple perspectives for the past 40 years,” Uta Poiger, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, said in her introductory remarks to Signs stakeholders on Jan. 22 in the Raytheon Amphitheater. “The journal’s vision aligns with the college’s vision to bolster its commitment to research excellence in interdisciplinary work.”
Northeastern was selected by an interdisciplinary board of feminist scholars to serve as Signs’ editorial home until 2020. Suzanna Walters, a professor of sociology and the director of Northeastern’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, will serve as Signs’ editor-in-chief. Carla Kaplan, the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature, will chair the journal’s board of associate editors.
Signs, which is published by the University of Chicago Press, was founded in 1975 and has been based at Rutgers University since 2005. Each year, the journal receives more than 400 submissions and publishes more than 1,000 pages of feminist scholarship. Its scholarly articles are downloaded more than 700,000 times per year from JSTOR, the popular digital library.
“There is scarcely another journal in JSTOR with that record,” said Mary Hawkesworth, distinguished professor of political science and gender studies at Rutgers University, where she served as editor-in-chief for the past nine years. “Signs is a journal with a big ambition—one that cuts across science, the humanities, and the social sciences—and people are reading it.”
In her remarks, Walters presented a series of governing principles that will guide her editorial decision-making. For one, she will not be afraid to ask—nor address—the “big questions.”
“I think we’ve been scared lately to ask sweeping questions—and feminist theory has become in some ways re-disciplined and balkanized by an increasingly narrower purview,” she said. “But big questions help create a culture of feminist public intellectuals and a feminist public sphere that is wide-ranging, unapologetic, and allied.”
Walters also discussed her commitment to digital communication, noting that the journal will include a segment called “Ask the Activist,” which will live on its website and its social media channels. “Let us ride the digital wave but do so thoughtfully,” she said. “Transform the feminist tweet into the deliberative theory. Help feminist bloggers take up public space as feminist pundits.”
Her editorial strategy will be shaped in part by Signs’ board of 64 associate editors, whose expertise runs from anthropology and religious studies to music and philosophy. The team plans to collaborate with a range of Northeastern partners, from the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project in the School of Law to the NU Lab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, the university’s center for digital humanities and computational social science.
“It is a huge honor to chair this board, which represents one of the most remarkable cross sections of humanities possible,” Kaplan said. “We are as august a group as we are interdisciplinary.”