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Honorary degree citation - Joan Wallach Scott

By: Nora Jaffary, June 2016

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Dr. Joan Wallach Scott, professor emerita at Princeton University and one of the world’s most prominent historians of modern gender history.

Dr. Scott has written or edited eighteen significant books and over eighty articles treating France’s social and gender history, citizenship, and academic freedom.

Les ouvrages de madame Scott ont inspiré des générations d’historiens, de philosophes, de politicologues et de spécialistes de la question du genre. Ces érudits exploraient des thématiques des plus variées, comme la politique étrangère américaine au vingtième siècle, le colonialisme en Amérique latine ou encore la confection d’états en Europe de l’Est.

Le lectorat de madame Scott est international. En effet, ses livres sont traduits dans de nombreuses langues, notamment en français, en espagnol, en portugais, en chinois, en japonais et en arabe.

Dr. Scott’s intellectual depth is reflected, in her unusual achievement of having obtained canonical status while remaining intellectually subversive.

First the canonical: Over the years, Dr. Scott’s research has garnered her various prestigious awards. Here are just a few of them.

In 1974, she received the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize from the American Historical Association (the AHA) for The Glassworkers of Carmaux. In 1989, her landmark collection of essays, Gender and the Politics of History, won the AHA’s Joan Kelly Prize for women’s history and feminist theory. In 2006, the Middle East Studies Association presented her with the Academic Freedom Award. And in 2009, the AHA honoured her with an Award for Scholarly Distinction for her lifetime achievements.

Between 1987, when the academic database JSTOR began putting articles online and 2008, readers accessed Dr. Scott’s article “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” more than 38,000 times. As of April this year, it remains the most  frequently cited article in the history of the American Historical Review.

Now for the equally impressive subversive elements of her achievements:

Dr. Scott has long made it her business to chart hierarchies of domination (whether by gender, race, class, nationality, or sexuality). Dans un récent ouvrage intitulé The Politics of the Veil, en français « la politique du voile », madame Scott analyse l’interdiction de porter des « signes ostentatoires » à connotation religieuse dans les écoles publiques de France. Elle montre comment, au nom de l’universalité, l’État français marginalise les demandes des féministes et des membres de minorités sexuelles ou raciales.

She has also been an important defender of academic liberty in her service to the American Association of University Professors. Most recently, she published a pointed indictment of restrictions on critical speech on university campuses in the wake of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s 2014 dismissal of Dr. Steven Salaita.

As these examples illustrate, no other writer has had such a profound influence on shaping our understanding of how gender and power construct one another on university campuses and far beyond them including in such domains as war and diplomacy, which prior to Dr. Scott’s publications were often considered ungendered.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Dr. Joan Scott, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.

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