This letter is lightly revised from the Winter 2021 SMA Newsletter
Two months have now passed since I officially assumed the editorship of Medical Anthropology Quarterly. For many editors, these first weeks can be head-spinning. New and revised manuscripts pour in as colleagues use holiday “breaks” to complete lingering projects. Mastery of the online submission system known as Scholar One requires quick uptake of an esoteric set of computer skills. All the while the demands of a widening media landscape, from print publication to web-based series, need to be carefully balanced.
Thankfully, I inherited a thriving and efficient editorial operation from my predecessor, Vincanne Adams. Her stewardship of MAQ over the past four years has made a lasting and invaluable contribution to the SMA. I would be remiss if I did not also extend a heartfelt thanks to Vincanne’s two Editorial Assistants, Nadia Gaber and Melina Salvador, whose scholarly and logistical expertise have been essential to making MAQ the vibrant forum for ideas and debate that is today. From Vincanne, Melina, and Nadia, I have inherited a lineup of exciting new manuscripts as well as a much-needed upgrade of this website.
My editorship begins at a time when medical anthropologists around the world are working to process unprecedented levels of public anxiety and private grief. Covid-19 continues to upend daily life, and movements for racial justice push us to ask how medical anthropology can answer the urgent call for social change. These events have also prompted many of us to reckon with medical anthropology’s blind spots and omissions.
Throughout 2020, MAQ kept anthropological reflections on Covid-19 front and center, with an expanded online presence and a new web forum, Rapid Responses. We have published ethnographic reflections on the pandemic by authors hailing from all areas of our discipline—from applied practitioners to philosophically minded theorists—and from a variety of geographical vantage points—from Cuba to the Congo. We also published a special issue that featured longer-form engagements with the pandemic.
In response to the extraordinary public demonstration of support for the Movement for Black Lives, MAQ joined many other AAA journals in heeding the call of the Association of Black Anthropologists to account for the persistence of white supremacy and anti-black racism in our field. The journal’s Aims and Scope were revised to make clear that “The Journal is committed to scholarship that seeks to undo the structures of white supremacy, (settler) colonialism, and the knowledge practices upon which these have been built. We aim to provide space for antiracist and anticolonial praxis, and are committed to amplifying the voices and perspectives of underrepresented scholars from around the globe, including in our practices of publication, citation, and circulation.”
On this front, frankly, we have much more work to do. A well-crafted statement of vision will not be sufficient. We need to acknowledge the ways in which medical anthropology has consistently centered whiteness. To that end, this year, we are organizing a series of online forums on key (and under-acknowledged) scholarship by Black medical anthropologists. Our main web forum, Critical Care, edited by Amber Benezra, will also continue foregrounding anthropological engagement with issues of political and public import. Of course, a direct reckoning with medical anthropology’s problematic history of whiteness also needs to find its way into the pages of the journal itself. The Editorial Board is committed to helping me make this happen.
My job would be much more difficult—and much less fulfilling—without the collaboration of MAQ’s stellar editorial team: Assistant Editor Xisai Song (Cornell University), Digital Editor Amber Benezra (Stevens Institute of Technology), Book Reviews Editor Daisy Deomampo (Fordham University), and Reading the Archive Editor Zoë Wool (University of Toronto). I am grateful to each of them for the commitment they have made to the journal, and to all of you for your manuscript submissions, your peer reviews, and your readership.
Alex Nading | Cornell University