May/June 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 5

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Welcome the New Contexts Editors:
Jodi O’Brien and Arlene Stein

Peter M. Nardi,
Pitzer College/The Claremont Colleges

The American Sociological Association has found the perfect editors for Contexts, the quarterly magazine that "makes sociology interesting" for the lay reader and professional sociologist alike. But "interesting" is too weak a word to describe Arlene Stein and Jodi O’Brien. The Contexts website describes the publication as "a smartly written, thought-provoking take on modern life in our communities—it’s an indispensable guide to understanding our dynamic society." There you have it: smart, thought-provoking, modern, indispensable, dynamic—adjectives that characterize the new editors perfectly.

jodi obrien

Jodi O'Brien

Jodi O’Brien

Jodi O’Brien attended the University of Utah as an undergraduate and the University of Washington for her PhD. She started her journal experience as a graduate student editorial assistant on Social Psychology Quarterly, andserved on the editorial boards of Teaching Sociology, Social Problems, Sociological Perspectives, and Sexualities. O’Brien further honed her skills as one of five members of the Editorial Board for ASA’s The Social Worlds of Higher Education: Handbook for Teaching in a New Century; aseditor for the 50 social psychology entries of the Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology; as editor of a special issue of Journal of Contemporary Ethnography; as co-editor of a Routledge book series "Contemporary Sociological Perspectives;" and as editorial board member for the first edition of the Contexts Reader.

O’Brien’s most ambitious project as editor has been the two-volume Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, recipient of three national book awards. This enterprise involved coordinating 370 authors expected to write 558 entries in a lively, non-jargon style as well as organize an editorial team (of which I was fortunate enough to be a member and to witness for myself her incredible energy and commitment).

Smart, indispensable, modern. I could go on, so I will: five editions of a social psychology text, The Production of Reality: Essays and Readings on Social Interaction;eight editions of Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life Reading.She accomplished all thiswhile serving at various time periods as Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Seattle University, currently chair of the sociology and anthropology department at Seattle University, past President of the Pacific Sociological Association, and almost a dean at  a large Midwestern university (Don’t ask. Actually, do, for a very insightful and provocative conversation over a cappuccino or, better yet, a glass of wine.)

So who in her right mind want to take on yet another editing task? Maybe someone with the thought-provoking energy that is Jodi. I knew right away when I first met her—about 18 years ago—that we would hit it off and become lasting friends.

arlene stein

Arlene Stein

Arlene Stein

Arlene Stein is the other part of this dynamic duo. Stein’s first editing gig was when she served as editor-in-chief of the Bronx High School of Science newspaper ("Science Survey"—how’s that for a catchy name for a school paper?!). Attending Amherst College as an undergraduate, she went on to receive her PhD from University of California-Berkeley where she became dedicated to the concept of "public sociology" before it even had a name. She taught for many years at the University of Oregon and is now at Rutgers University focusing on sexuality, social movements, and culture.

Stein served on the editorial board of a short-lived but highly influential magazine about sexual politics, Out/Look. She honed her skills in communicating sociological research to a general audience through numerous op-eds and additional journalistic writing for NewsdayThe Oregonian, and The Nation, among other publications. She is the author of Sex and Sensibility: Stories of a Lesbian Generation; The Stranger Next Door (whichreceived anthropology’s Ruth Benedict Award and an Honor Award from the American Library Association);and Shameless: Sexual Dissidence in American Culture. All of this research was recognized with the ASA Section on Sexualities Simon and Gagnon Award for career contributions to sexuality studies. Stein produces smart, modern, and dynamic writing about provocative and important issues.

In addition to authoring books Arlene has also served as culture editor of Sociology Compass and participated on the editorial boards of Social Problems, SIGNS, and Sexualities. With her editing skills, journalism background, scholarly writing, and ability to communicate complex ideas to a general audience, Arlene Stein will form a powerful team with Jodi O’Brien in bringing Contexts to a diverse audience. In their words: "We are excited about co-editing Contexts, which we believe is an indispensable outlet for making sociology engaging, and translating sociological ideas to diverse publics." 

Dynamic, smart, thought-provoking. Welcome Jodi O’Brien and Arlene Stein, the new editors of Contexts.

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