Everywhere and Nowhere? Women's History in Cultural History and Cultural Studies Journals

By Arrow, Michelle | Hecate, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Everywhere and Nowhere? Women's History in Cultural History and Cultural Studies Journals


Arrow, Michelle, Hecate


Cultural history, as Hsu-Ming Teo and Richard White recently noted, is 'probably the most fashionable of history's many approaches. It has taken over that role, first from political history and then from social history, as the all-embracing form of explanation of the past.'39 AS the dust settled after the 'cultural turn', an accommodation was reached between cultural studies and history that saw many historians adopt (and adapt) the theoretical innovations of cultural studies for their own purposes. This has led to such a flourishing of cultural history that Lynn Hunt has labeled its dominance of the field 'well-nigh hegemonic.'40

This made my task - to map out the state of play of women's history in cultural history and cultural studies journals in the last five years or so - somewhat difficult. First, the dominance of cultural history approaches means, in effect, that cultural history is both everywhere and nowhere in scholarly journals. Cultural history is arguably the dominant form of history writing today, yet no 'Journal of Cultural History' exists to publish this work. Cultural history has instead colonized a wide range of journals and appears across a broad range of history publications, but there are slippages between cultural history, social history, and other emerging fields, such as memory studies, and studies of historical film, for example. So when I set out on this task, my first challenge was to identify 'cultural history' journals.

Second, while Cultural Studies is now a major discipline in the humanities, with a range of journals publishing in the field, when I looked at these journals with my task in mind, I found that few of them were publishing any women's history. This is not to say that cultural studies does not engage with, or critique history: for example, Cultural Studies Review (formerly the UTS Review^) has a well-established tradition of interrogating discourses of history, nation, and colonialism from a cultural studies perspective. History is a dominant discourse in our cultural life - especially in Australia, where it has been a vigorously contested area of national debate - and it colours other disciplines like literary studies, cultural studies and Australian studies. Yet, much of the work in these fields that engages with history tends not to address women's history. Similarly, many cultural studies researchers who work on gender are not engaged in historically-focused research. So this was my second challenge - finding women's history within cultural studies, both in Australia and abroad.

So, for reasons I will explain, I have chosen three journals for this paper: the Journal of Social History, from the United States, the British History Workshop Journal, and the Journal of Australian Studies. I surveyed the journals since 2000, reading abstracts and articles to draw my conclusions about content and coverage of women's history in these journals. Each of my choices may seem slightly unusual - so I will explain why I have selected them as I work through. But before I do that, I want to discuss briefly some of the cultural studies and history journals I rejected as unsuitable subjects for this task - which might help explain why I chose the journals I did.

First, to the cultural studies journals. While it predates the rise of cultural studies, the Journal of Popular Culture is the journal of the American-based Popular Culture Association, and publishes on an exhaustingly wide range of subject matter, including food, place, identity, leisure, and media representations of gender and race. Articles on women's history were rare, although the journal did publish an article by Dianne Kirkby on gender and beer-drinking practices in Australia.41 Cultural Studies is based in the United States and aims to 'explore the relation between cultural practices, everyday life, material, economic, political, geographical and historical contexts.'42 It has recently published special issues on intellectual property, disability, critical pedagogy, everyday life and postcolonial studies, as well as regularly publishing theorizing and reflections on the discipline of cultural studies itself. …

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