By Hannah White
Dr. Diana J. Fox is a decolonial feminist scholar-activist and documentary film producer. She is professor of Anthropology and Department Chair at Bridgewater State University. Her work in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago over the last three decades has focused on issues of gender and sexual diversity, sexual citizenship, HIV/AIDS education, transnational feminism, women’s social movement activism for ecological sustainability and the human rights of girls and women. Since 2015, she has worked on gender and climate justice with the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) in Trinidad; served as an academic advisor for the United Maroons of Diaspora seeking status as Indigenous Peoples through the U.N.; served as a consultant for gender inclusive curricula in Japan; and researched women’s social and political art in Nepal, among other community, regional and transnational projects. Her main research methodology centers around collaborative partnerships to achieve liberatory community goals around the rights of women, girls, and gender and sexually diverse populations. Since she is especially interested in forging collaborations through community partnerships, her educational and activist films and other projects serve community goals, while building awareness across multiple publics. Diana has been the Founder and Editor of the open access, online Journal of International Women’s Studies since 1999. She is the recipient of four Fulbright scholarships, two Wenner-Gren Anthropological Foundation grants as well as other grants, awards and honors, has published a number of books and articles, and is a frequent speaker at conferences, and other public venues.
In an interview, Diana and I talked in-depth about the work she does at the Journal of International Women’s Studies (JIWS) and elsewhere, the women around the world who inspire her work, and some of the places her research has taken her.
Hannah White: Tell us about the work you do at the JIWS.
Diana Fox: My work has changed over the years to some extent as I have had the opportunity to work with graduate assistants like you, Hannah and Carley Taylor, who have taken on the bulk of the daily managing of the JIWS’ email, formatting, and copy editing of articles. My work these days is largely to review revised articles, to work with scholars and activists who wish to create special issues, helping them craft their calls for papers; interacting with the JIWS’ editorial board to update them on new issues, changes with the JIWS—such as new submission guidelines and the addition of new genres that reflect our feminist publication. I work closely with graduate assistants, first training them and working through the steps of processing articles and other pieces. I also respond to inquiries about the appropriateness of articles for the JIWS, and I am the public face of the journal. This means that I update folks on the JIWS Facebook page, I often give presentations about the Journal at Women’s Studies and feminist conferences about feminist publishing, and I work with conference chairs around publications coming out of their conferences.
HW: What aspect of your work do you find the most rewarding?
DF: I love interacting with people around the world and learning about social movements for women’s rights, gender, sexual rights/sexual citizenship, and the like. Of course, helping authors to hone articles in ways that reflect our mission is also very rewarding, especially when publications help people move forward in their careers and contribute knowledge that transforms actual conditions of inequity. I have been pleasantly surprised at the Journal’s impact and how the open-access format has facilitated growing global awareness of the issues that we publish about. I believe the JIWS’ is an expression of transnational feminism and that is exciting. I receive emails from authors and readers who tell me how they feel part of the JIWS’ community, and how what they have learned from reading the publication shapes their own lives and students’ lives. It is especially rewarding when articles are harnessed for policy initiatives, when they connect people with one another, and actually do the work of addressing structural inequities and violence. The open-access format is a brilliant development in democratic publishing, and I am very honored to be a part of that world.
HW: As you know, March is Women’s History Month. Who are some women that inspire you and the work you do?
DF: This is a huge list! I have to begin with my late mother, Vivian C. Fox, a historian of women’s rights in England and the US, who published an article in the JIWS back in 2002, 10 years before she passed, an article that has garnered over 38K downloads. She modeled a rare combination of strength, compassion, intellectual sharpness and rigor, and an ever-sustained curiosity about the world. She encouraged me to get my PhD, and along with my father, who was an unabashed feminist man, very much shaped my own ideals and of course my capacity to pursue them. I honor them as ancestors. We often focus on “great women” for Women’s History month and there are many great women I admire who are recognized by societies globally. However, I also believe in not reproducing the “great man theory” of change that highlights individuals above communities and everyday women, who, because of the way fame and publicity, and being in the right time and place work in our societies, are overlooked. I think Women’s History Month should give us pause to recognize women everywhere, who are doing the daily work of juggling family and household, pushing for community change that is liberatory and inclusive, battling discrimination, prejudice, finding creative ways to manage their own lives and expressing love and compassion all the while.
HW: Can you tell us about the origins of the JIWS? Your vision for the journal going forward?
DF: The JIWS began as a small, local publication when I was a professor at the Massachusetts of Liberal Arts. In 1999 when I began the publication, I was also the director of the college’s Susan B. Anthony Women’s Center. I noticed a gap between Center programming and college classes and faculty scholarship. I thought that a journal coming out of the women’s center would link the two. However, given its online, open access format—there were literally just a dozen or so such journals when I began this process—it touched a chord. I brought the JIWS to Bridgewater State when I was hired just a year later, and institutional support for the publication helped to drive its success, especially publishing through digital commons. The many contributors, grad assistants, library support, as well as our reviewers and of course readership have helped move the JIWS to become a truly global journal. I am grateful and inspired by all who make this publication what it is.
HW: What’s your favorite book? Or what book/publication inspires you?
DF: I have long been a reader of The Nation, a progressive news magazine that has helped shape my worldview. I am actually not one for favorites as I have so many sources of inspiration. I love Margaret Atwood, Octavia E. Butler, Toni Morrison, Ursula LeGuinn, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Leslie Mormon Silko—again, many favorites!!
HW: Favorite place you’ve visited?
DF: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Nepal, France, Italy, the English countryside, the list goes on…I love cultural diversity, the beauty of our planet, the incredible people I’ve been fortunate to meet…it’s impossible to have just one favorite place!