York Distinguished Research Professor Lorraine Code receives honorary doctorate

York Distinguished Research Professor Lorraine Code was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Letters on Feb. 23 by the University of Guelph. The presentation was made during the university’s winter convocation ceremonies which took place Feb. 23 and 24 in the Gryphon Dome in Guelph, Ontario

Left: Lorraine Code

Code received the honour as part of University’s College of Arts ceremony, for her reputation as one of Canada’s best known feminist philosophers and scholars. She was the first woman to hold the position of Distinguished Research Professor at York University.

Code is best-known for her work in epistemology, also known as theory of knowledge. She has focused much of her research on epistemic responsibility, by which she means the kinds of responsibilities that people who present themselves as “knowers” are required to fulfill, and on feminist epistemology. She is currently developing the concept of ecological thinking which, as she explains, involves “thinking in a way that attempts to chart how such factors as place, situation, circumstance, subjectivity and other particularities contribute to the production and circulation of knowledge.” Her work analyses the politics of situated knowledge within a feminist, post-colonial, anti-racist and class-conscious frame. Internationally-renowned, Code has paved the way for new understandings of feminist epistemology as thoughtful practice.

In her convocation address to the graduates, Code thanked the University of Guelph for the honour. She mentioned that she had been the recipient of the first PhD in the joint Guelph-McMaster doctoral program in Philosophy. Moreover, she was pleased to be honoured in the year that celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Guelph, for she had played an important role in the program’s genesis. “In the late 1970s, I took part in discussions that led to establishing this program. Ironically, given the place women’s studies now occupies in colleges and universities across Canada and throughout the world, we were convinced then that women’s studies, like women’s movements and feminist activism everywhere, would succeed very quickly in eradicating gender-based inequalities, with the result that such programs would, themselves, no longer be needed,” said Code.

“The reality is more complex in both its positive and negative dimensions. Women’s achievements since the 1970s have been nothing short of remarkable; and feminist teaching and research have diversified, and evolved in scholarly sophistication well beyond what we then dared to hope. Nonetheless, inequalities prevail: so much remains to be done,” she continued.

Code challenged the graduating students to assume the new and urgent responsibilities borne by members of the educated population of this country, and of the world. “Politically and otherwise, these are difficult times you are entering with your newly-achieved degrees, equipped with a fine education that you will take with you, if not always consciously, to everything you do from now on”, she said. “If you can do so thoughtfully, intelligently, and imaginatively, with a good critical sense of when and how the things you care deeply about mean what they seem to, and of how you might best approach those that puzzle or those that repel you: with a sense of when and how to look more deeply, more cautiously, more courageously into how it all came about in order to think well about it and act well in responding to it, you will be honouring your education as it should be honoured. And it will do well by you.”

More about Lorraine Code

Lorraine Code, Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at York University, is cross-appointed to the graduate programs in Social and Political Thought, and in Women’s Studies. In addition to numerous articles in such journals as The American Philosophical Quarterly, Hypatia, Radical Philosophy and The Monist, numerous chapters in books, and four co-edited books, she has authored Epistemic Responsibility (UPNE, 1987); What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge (Cornell University Press 1991); and Rhetorical Spaces: Essays on (Gendered) Locations (Routledge 1995).

Code is the editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories (Routledge 2000) and Feminist Interpretations of Hans-Georg Gadamer (Pennsylvania State University Press 2003). With Kathryn Hamer, she has published an English translation of Michèle Le Doeuff’s “Le Sexe du savoir”, with the English title, The Sex of Knowing (Routledge 2003).

Her current book, titled Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location, written when she held the prestigious Canada Council Killam Research Fellowship, is currently in production and is due to be released later this year by Oxford University Press, New York.