Course-Correction at Marginalia: A Letter to our Readers

Dear Reader,

On January 29 of this year, we crossed a three-year threshold. Three years is a significant achievement, not only because it represents the eclipse of another year but also because magazine editors are always conscious of the failure rate of enterprises such as ours at just this point. And yet we made it.

I think back with some relish to the time a distinguished professor called me to tell me we wouldn’t see our first anniversary. We were aiming at a style no academic would bother to emulate, he said, and our editorial standards were too stringent for those accustomed to seeing little editorial intervention in their work.

It hasn’t been easy, but we are now at a place at which we no longer have to justify what we are doing. Our readers and contributors have vouched for us and they have declared that the publication is viable.

I congratulate all of our editors and production staff for helping us to arrive at this important moment. Everyone on our team works tirelessly and juggles numerous commitments, with MRB being yet another passion they’ve added to an already tall heap of duties. Without their efforts and dedication, we’d still be talking about what we would hope to see happen in some undefined future. They are making it happen every day. We have watched a steady stream of reviews come through the pipeline, published stimulating forums, and witnessed the growth of MRB Radio. To this fantastic team, we are immensely grateful.

And yet, while we have always proclaimed our desire for and commitment to diversity and inclusion, when we did a careful audit of everything that we published in 2015, we realized that Marginalia hasn’t translated that general commitment into successful practice: white men’s intellectual work is overrepresented while the scholarship, voices, and perspectives of all others have been marginalized. As one of our senior editors poignantly expressed it, if you are an African American woman writer and wanted your book discussed in Marginalia in 2015, you would have to have been named “Toni Morrison.”

Ultimately, I take responsibility for not having inspired our team more actively to create a publication that dismantles the hegemony of white male overrepresentation in the humanities. Good intentions have been shared by the whole team, but actions don’t always follow desire without concerted effort and dedicated leadership.

Today, I apologize to our readers for our failure to get this right from our inception. But I also vow that we will right the ship. A separate letter has gone out to our team whom we are involving in a plan that will permeate every branch of the magazine. With our whole team over the next few weeks, we will continue some intense conversations that already began among the senior editors some months ago.

The MRB of tomorrow will not look like the MRB of yesterday. The whole Marginalia community — editors, contributors, and readers — can help transform the magazine into a more diverse and inclusive publication. We welcome your ideas, suggestions, and support as we pursue this necessary project of change.


Your friend and partner,

Timothy Michael Law

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