Research Spotlight: Kevin Nadal and Silvia Mazzula

Friends and colleagues since graduate school, Dr. Kevin Nadal and Dr. Silvia Mazzula were motivated by their commitment to social justice to publish an extensive and inclusive Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender for SAGE. Dr. Nadal served as the chief editor of the four-volume work, and Dr. Mazzula worked alongside him as an associate editor, helping to brainstorm and shape the 600 entries within the encyclopedia. Drawing on their backgrounds as researchers from historically underrepresented backgrounds in academia, Dr. Nadal and Dr. Mazzula (along with Dr. David Rivera as an associate editor) edited the encyclopedia entries while being mindful of inclusivity, using multicultural approaches that address race, income, gender identity, sexual orientation, and immigration status.

Could you share an overview of the encyclopedia?

Kevin: This encyclopedia is a four-volume set that contains 600 entries or articles related to psychology and gender. We focused on providing multicultural and intersectional approaches to gender and psychology by drawing from feminism, queer studies, and race studies to inform the entries and promote discussion of cultural and social justice issues. We also tried to make this encyclopedia accessible to non-academics by using less jargon and a more readable writing style.

What was your role as an editor or associate editor?

Silvia: Kevin was the brain behind the encyclopedia in working with the publisher, brainstorming topics and subtopics, and reviewing entries.

Kevin: We had to think critically about the list of topics. We started with about 200 entries, and between Silvia, myself, and David, we added 400 entries. Because of our diverse backgrounds and experiences, we came up with topics that wouldn’t be in a traditional, western, white feminist psychology book. We have entries on immigration, sex, world views, approaches to therapy, and every intersectionality you can think of—immigration status, religion, sexual orientation.

Silvia: We had a lot of creative juices flowing, and we spent a lot of time thinking outside the box in terms of what was missing in the current literature on women and psychology, as well as how we understand gender on a cultural level. As an editor, I enjoyed reading the entries and providing constructive feedback to the authors—pushing these experts in their fields to be more inclusive of the social justice issues that we, as editors, were eager to address.

Kevin: For those not already invested in multiculturalism and intersectionality, Silvia and I, along with the other associate editors, had to educate some authors on social justice. It was a big learning experience to see how much of the field does not think about psychology and gender the way we do. With this encyclopedia, we’re trying to make our intersectional world view standardized—not an afterthought.

What compelled you to do this work?

Kevin: I was approached by SAGE to edit this encyclopedia because they found that their literature was missing a comprehensive work on gender and psychology, and they chose me based on my past work in the field. SAGE was the first publishing company that I ever submitted my academic work to, and they rejected me, so the fact that they asked me to work on this project was an honor and a career milestone. On a professional level, I didn’t want this to become another encyclopedia that only focuses on gender and psychology from a white feminist perspective. I wanted to take on the project to make a critical, intersectional contribution. The privilege to have control of the narrative was compelling. Finding people who shared those values was also important to me, which is why I chose Silvia to work on the project.

Silvia: Professionally, working on this encyclopedia just made sense. To have such a major contribution in addressing a big gap in the literature was important. I was also excited to collaborate with Kevin—we’ve known each other since we were doctoral students and shared the experience of being racial/ethnic minorities in academia. To see our doctoral student experiences and discussions make it into a major publication was huge.

Who should read this encyclopedia and why?

Silvia: Everyone. We’re hoping that libraries will have copies to access, but we also see it as a much broader tool for educational purposes. My 12-year-old son had some questions about what he was hearing in school, so I actually used the encyclopedia to go over some terms with him. I don’t usually pull out encyclopedias with my sons, but this one is so inclusive that neither he nor any other child would be left out of the conversation by this information.

Kevin: We hope that high school and public libraries, not just university collections, will have copies because we believe that it has far-reaching potential.

What was your favorite thing about the editing process? Any favorite entries?

Kevin: Finishing it! Actually, one of my favorite parts was putting together a timeline of psychology and gender. Past literature focused on the history of white women in psychology, but this timeline features the first black psychologist, the history of the LGBTQ movement within the field, and other present day work. On the other hand, one of the hardest parts of the editing process was revising the timeline during the 2016 election. Our final edits were finished in the summer of 2016, but when Donald Trump won the presidential election, I had to go back and integrate the election into the encyclopedia, using the frame of gender and psychology. I included the women’s march and emphasized the systemic issues that the election impacted. It was daunting to see how much further we have to go.

Silvia: Even though we still have far to go as a field to understand the human experience in its totality—that includes intersections, diverse world views, and diverse perspectives—seeing how many people are invested in moving these conversations forward was my favorite part. Academics tend to feel isolated when they’re talking about issues of culture and race, but to see that there are many people working to change the conversation and shift the paradigm was exciting.