From This Month's Editor

THERE'S strength in numbers, or so they say. And numerologists would ascribe to them more potent powers besides. I've never felt any particular fascination with numerals myself. But I am nonetheless somewhat awed by the fact that this is the 300th issue of the NI.

Not bad going for a publication that, at the outset, few believed would run into more than a handful of issues. People in the industrialized world might have had an interest in the then more readily-termed 'Third World' but that didn't mean they needed a magazine about it. Not unless they were doing business there, or were planning to.

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One of the reasons the NI has survived could be that right from the start its originators believed that if the magazine were to report on the so-called 'developing' world then it really had to bring the issues home to the reader. It had to make connections across all sorts of divides - economic, geographic, racial, gender - to express the commonality of humanity. And to do that effectively it had to be personal.

There can be few more personal subjects than 'the body'. And few more universal and contradictory ones. The body is both a playground and a battlefield; the site where both the greatest tenderness occurs and the most brutal inequalities are acted out.

It's maybe significant that most social and cultural study of 'the body' during the past 20 years or so has come from the sidelines. It's come from radicals - feminists, philosophers, psychoanalysts - who questioned mainstream culture, the dominance of patriarchy or capitalism, in a very fundamental way.

Underlying several articles in this issue is the same questioning spirit. Some directly prompt the question: 'What on earth is going on?' Nancy Scheper-Hughes' shocking article on the growing traffic in human organs for transplant is one such piece. Hopefully it will help stimulate action to regulate the more gruesome and abusive excesses of this trade. While Zachary I Nataf's piece on transgender and intersex conditions - and how various cultures treat people who do not fit the norms of gender polarity - raises rather different kinds of questions. But it will, I imagine, make many of its readers sit up and think, and re-think.

Who knows how many more issues of the NI there will be? Tens, hundreds, thousands? Nothing can be taken for granted, or at face value, but then that's part of what the New Internationalist is all about.

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Vanessa Baird
for the New Internationalist Co-operative

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New Internationalist issue 300 magazine cover This article is from the April 1998 issue of New Internationalist.
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