Press Release

Joan Wallach Scott Receives the 2016 Talcott Parsons Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences


CAMBRIDGE, MA | December 14, 2016 – The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has named Joan Wallach Scott as the recipient of the 2016 Talcott Parsons Prize for her distinguished contributions to the social sciences. This award will be presented to Professor Scott, a member of the Academy, on April 6, 2017, at the House of the Academy in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

First awarded in 1974, the Talcott Parsons Prize was established to honor the noted sociologist and former president of the Academy and is rotated among the various social science disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, demography, history, law, linguistics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

“We are pleased to present the Talcott Parsons Prize to Professor Scott for her distinguished achievements in the social sciences,” said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the American Academy. “We are honored that she is a member of the Academy and to have the opportunity to celebrate her contributions to the field,” he said.

Previous recipients of the Talcott Parsons Prize include: Clifford Geertz (anthropology), C. Vann Woodward (history), Albert Hirschman (economics), and Daniel Kahneman (psychology).

As one of her nominators for this prize wrote, “Joan Scott is, correctly, the most influential theorist and practitioner of feminist and gender theory working in the historical sciences. Her article, ‘Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,’ launched the discussion in the profession at large of how gender changes the way historians understand, research, write, and teach history. She is adept at the philosophy of history and social science, so she brings to feminist and gender theory a critical view that has continuously pushed the boundaries, not just of conventional history, but also of the professional criticism of historiography. No one that I can think of has had more progressive or sustained impact on historical scholarship during my lifetime or has contributed as much to further women scholars.”

Joan Wallach Scott is Professor Emerita in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she taught from 1985 to 2014. She has also taught at the University of Illinois, Chicago; Northwestern University; the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Brown University, where she was the founding director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. She is currently an adjunct professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Scott’s groundbreaking work has challenged the foundations of conventional historical practice, including the nature of historical evidence and historical experience and the role of narrative in the writing of history. Broadly, the object of her work is the question of difference in history: its uses, enunciations, implementations, justifications, and transformations in the construction of social and political life.

Her recent books have focused on the vexed relationship of the particularity of gender to the universalizing force of democratic politics and include Gender and the Politics of History (1988), Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man (1996), Parité: Sexual Equality and the Crisis of French Universalism (2005), The Politics of the Veil (2007), and The Fantasy of Feminist History (2011). Written in 1986, her now classic article, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” continues to inspire innovative research on women and gender. In her landmark article “The Evidence of Experience” (1991), Scott criticized the tendency of feminism to accept uncritically (and “de-historicize”) the reporting of personal experience as an authentic expression of women’s reality. She has been recognized with honorary degrees from a number of academic institutions, including Brown, Harvard, the University of Bergen (Norway), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Princeton University.

Several of Scott’s books have won prizes from the American Historical Association, which also awarded her the Nancy Lyman Roelker Prize for graduate mentoring in 1995. At its meeting in January 2009, the AHA presented her with an award for Scholarly Distinction, the culmination of more than 40 years of research and writing in her chosen fields of French history, women’s and gender history, and feminist theory. She was chair of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure at the American Association of University Professors (1999–2005), where she took a strong stand against the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001, and she continues to serve as a member of that committee.

Scott is a founding editor of History of the Present: a Journal of Critical History. She received the B.A. degree (1962) magna cum laude from Brandeis University, and the M.S. (1964) and Ph.D. (1969) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, all in history. Scott was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008.