Indiana University Bloomington sociologist Fabio Rojas wasn't looking to edit an academic journal; he got to experience that kind of work as a graduate student. But he couldn't pass up on opportunity to become co-editor of Contexts, the public-outreach magazine of the American Sociological Association.
Rojas, professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, assumed leadership of the quarterly publication this month. He and co-editor Rashawn Ray, associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, will have their names on the masthead starting in February 2018.
While it's an official journal of an academic association, Contexts is a glossy magazine that appeals to a broad audience. It features sociologists writing about topics of general interest in an accessible style. A recent issue included sociological perspectives on high-interest topics such as resurgent white supremacism and college hookup culture.
"It is a place where we can publish interesting interviews and feature articles that bring cool social sciences to the public," Rojas said. "It's a very different kind of thing than a regular academic journal."
When Rojas was nominated to edit the magazine, he thought Ray would be a good partner. It turned out Ray, who holds master's and doctoral degrees in sociology from IU Bloomington, had also been nominated, and the two accepted positions as co-editors.
Rojas is a scholar of social movements who has written books about the antiwar movement in America and how the Black Power movement of the 1960s led to black studies programs in universities. He writes blog posts and gives interviews on open borders, the idea that people should be free to move from one country to another without government restrictions.
Ray conducts research on racial and social inequality, including inequality in education, health, family life and work, and serves on the editorial boards of sociology and social psychology journals. He has written for The New York Times and Huffington Post and posts videos of commentary to his personal website.
"I would say we definitely complement each other," Rojas said. "We're similar in that we care about bringing sociology to the public, but we're different in who we know and what kind of work we do."
Rojas said producing Contexts is a collaborative endeavor that draws on creativity and imagination as well as deep knowledge of sociological research.
The editors are working on several ideas for the magazine, including themed issues, interviews with high-profile or controversial figures, photo essays and possibly a regular podcast-style video feature.
"An academic journal is anchored in its intellectual contribution," Rojas said. "But as editors we can select work that has an impact and is fun to read about. With a magazine like this, you can be just genuinely surprised."
A senior managing editor, Letta Page, is in charge of day-to-day planning and production. Working with Rojas and Ray, W. Carson Byrd of the University of Louisville will supervise book reviews while Tressie McMillan Cottom of Virginia Commonwealth University and CJ Pascoe of the University of Oregon will oversee a viewpoints section.
Michael Bader of American University will edit the Trends section, which focuses on interesting data stories and compelling visualizations, and Kristen Barber of Southern Illinois University and Catherine Bolzendahl of the University of California, Irvine, will edit the section on cultural trends.