Ang(st), Aishwarya Javalgekar (Interview)
Interviewed by Arin Lohr
Taken straight from their website, “ang(st) is a space for underrepresented and marginalized feminist voices.” Ang(st) is a zine published twice a year and founded by Aishwarya Javalgekar. The zine’s focus is on physical relationships with the body with a spotlight on “bodies that are considered outside of the realm of normal and able.” The word “ang” specifically means body, part, or member, while the full title word angst refers to anxiety and frustration. The title perfectly introduces a publication focused on nuanced emotions attached to the body.
Javalgekar explains her connection to and inspiration for the series of zines in this interview along with offering insight into the process of sorting through submissions and publishing extraordinary work.
The name of your zine is very clever! Was the name a random chance finding, or did it take a lot of research and thought?
The name is a play on language.
angst: anxiety/ frustration
ang (अंग): body/ part/ member
The name is a mixture of English and Sanskrit (an ancient language that is the root of many Indian languages – like Greek or Latin is for English, French, etc.) and is pronounced as ‘ungst’. The idea was to break away from a singular definition or identity and to showcase the plurality of my own identity and the diversity of experiences that the zine captures.
And since the zine focuses on experiences and issues related to the body, it works as a great title for a feminist body zine.
Not only are you an editor, but you also founded this zine! What led you to create this project and what do you feel your role is as a founder and editor?
I created ang(st) in April 2019 as an artistic output of my MA program. I was inspired by my research on the history and limitations of feminist zines. Though zines are theoretically accessible to all, they are still predominantly created by white women and researched in the context of North American feminist history. I wanted to use the medium of zines and create a platform that is truly intersectional, transnational, and celebrates the plurality of feminist thoughts and histories.
But I didn’t want the zine to only reflect my voice and identity. So, I reached out to poets and artists I knew and curated a collection of pieces on the theme of "body". This became issue 1 of the zine.
I see my role as that of a curator: I guide the contributors in polishing their pieces to make their message more powerful and compelling, but never edit or alter their stories or experience. And I ensure that every issue or ‘collection’ showcases a variety of experiences and perspectives on a particular theme. For e.g. our ‘Hair’ themed issue contained pieces about celebrating hair cuts, bleaching or shaving hair, body hair stigma, hair as identity, hair loss, and experiences of cancer patients and people suffering from trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder).
How has the zine's mission changed and evolved since conception?
While issue 1 included poets and artists I knew, I decided to open the zine up for submissions from issue 2 onwards. ang(st) because a biannual zine with themed issues like ‘Fat’, ‘Skin’, ‘Hair’ and now ‘Hands’. By focusing on specific parts of the body, we covered themes like body image, sexuality, violence, trauma, mental health, disability, racism, self-love and self-harm.
With each issue, we became more known on social media and among poets and writers. The number of submissions went up exponentially. I added more members to the ang(st) team to weigh in as editors and give constructive feedback to our contributors. We are now a four-member team.
When the covid-19 pandemic started, we wanted to create a space for people to express their experiences of the quarantine. So, we started the Distanced Project, and ran 3 versions of it in 2020. We also did a short Pride issue in June 2020 that consisted only of QTBIPOC voices. We run these projects in addition to the issues when we have time.
We are now in the process of publishing our fifth issue: ‘Hands’.
As an editor, I'm sure you receive many wonderful submissions, but how do you decide what is just good work and what belongs in your publication?
As an editor for ang(st) zine, I look at two things: artistic value and message.
Artistic value includes questions like: Does the piece show skill and talent? Does it reveal just the right amount of information and leave a little bit to the reader’s imagination? Does it have powerful imagery and evoke something within the reader? Is it memorable?
Our second priority is covering underrepresented voices and narratives. We receive submissions from brilliant queer and BIPOC writers who get slotted as ‘diversity’ contributors in larger literary magazines. ang(st) highlights and celebrates their multiplicity.
Sometimes, we work with the contributors to polish their pieces and make them publishing-worthy if the message or the experience is compelling and something we have never read
elsewhere. We also try to include constructive feedback with our rejections: on how to approach and edit the piece for future publications.
Who do you envision as the audience for this zine?
The zine is created for people who lie on the intersections of marginalized identities, who do not want to be labelled by a singular identity and often don't find spaces to share their unique experiences. This stems from my own experience as a queer woman of colour in Canada, where my writing would often be slotted into the queer experience or the POC experience.
Our work caters largely to feminists. But anyone who thinks or cares about their body would find the pieces we publish relatable and insightful.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in bringing your ideas to fruition?
There have been no major challenges as such. Creating a digital only publication was easy. And we have been able to build our community by being open, adaptable, and making space for all identities.
Our challenge is the one face by all literary magazines today: money. The issues are available for free. We can’t pay our contributors for their fantastic pieces and we also work on a voluntary basis. Any cost for creating the website, etc. comes from my pocket.
What other magazines, zines, and works of writing inspired you to create this publication? Who are some of your favorite poets and authors?
One of my strongest feminist inspirations is the writer and activist Mona Eltahawy. Her bold speech and writing helps me think of how I want to take up space in the world (digital or otherwise) and create space for others. I also take inspiration from Vivek Shraya, Pragya Bhagat, Manahil Bandukwala, and Sumana Roy.
Some magazines that I love: trampset, perhappened mag, Frontier Poetry. Re-size Zine and Mixed Mag.
Favourite upcoming writers and poets (many of them are our previous contributors): Gaia Rajan, Noreen Ocampo, L Scully, Preston Smith, Lynne Schmidt.
Founder and Editor-in-chief