Jean Harvey, 1947-2014

We report with sadness the death of Prof. Jean Harvey of the University of Guelph, on Sunday, April 20, 2014. Jean Harvey was the author of Civilized Oppression (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) and numerous articles on topics ranging from social justice, to moral solidarity, to companion-animals. In her work, Jean Harvey unhesitatingly drew upon feminist philosophy and advanced visions of a better and more just society.  In her service to the Canadian Society of Women in Philosophy (CSWIP), Jean established the graduate student award and fostered the success of individuals as well as the philosophical community.

It is something of a tradition at FP to feature a passage from the work of an author whose death we mark. I continue to draw on the first bit of Jean’s work I ever heard about, in almost every presentation on equity that I give. It was my colleague Sybol Cook Anderson who first read to me at some length from Jean Harvey’s monograph, on Jean’s concept of “indirect support power” to explain why just passing a law is not enough to end sexism or racism. Every time I repeat this to students they get it, they electrify, with the excitement of an audience that had always longed for words to explain why formal structures ending discrimination are not enough. As Jean explains in her JSP article, “Social Privilege and Moral Subordination,” being assigned direct power does not guarantee an individual’s success:

[This] ignores the role of support power. For most bank managers the support mechanisms will never undermine their assigned power, but when members of groups traditionally excluded from such positions begin to move into them, unreliable support power is not uncommon. The black police officer, the woman priest or professor, the openly homosexual politician all have assigned powers because of their roles, but the first to move into such roles in some places may not be able to count on the support power that is taken for granted by their long-accepted colleagues, the white, male, physically able, heterosexual police officers, priests, professors, and politicians.

When this phenomenon occurs, those concerned are doubted more often, ridiculed more often, supervised more closely, maneuvered into the least critical decision making whenever possible, and when challenged in some outrageous rather than legitimate way by someone over whom they technically have direct power, find no minimal and fair-minded support from peers who belong to the long-accepted groups, nor from those in supervisory roles.

Philosophers, we can honor our late colleague by offering support-power to one another. Let us make this a more just world. Jean Harvey’s work offers us some ways to do so.

14 thoughts on “Jean Harvey, 1947-2014

  1. I hadn’t heard of Jean Harvey, but now look forward to reading her work.

    Can I just add, as someone educated in history and now doing a PhD in public health, I find this website really useful. There’s a lot of feminist information around about forms of sexism, but not so much that really analyses meaning, and systems of thought. This blog is really helpful for a non-philosopher, thanks.

  2. […] Jean Harvey, 1955-2014 April 21st, 2014 — “We reportwith sadness the death of Prof. Jean Harvey of the University of Guelph, on Sunday, April 20, 2014. Jean Harvey was the author of Civilized Oppression (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) and numerous articles on topics ranging from social justice, to moral solidarity, to companion-animals. In her work, Jean Harvey unhesitatingly drew upon feminist philosophy […]” 1 Comment […]

  3. Jean wasn’t born in 1955; she was born during WWII, I think in 1943.

    Her passing is a great loss to me. She had a wicked, dry sense of humour, and she was a good friend.

  4. Karen, my sympathies with respect to your loss. (So sorry, I didn’t know 1943 was her birth-year! In her Library of Congress author-info (in the front matter of her book), the birth year is listed as 1955. I will see if I can find someone with definitive information.)

  5. Kate, I forgot to thank you for your lovely eulogy. Jean would have been touched and grateful.

  6. Karen, thanks for the kind words. I wish I’d said something like this to Jean before she died. (Alas, instead our last conversation in person was a spirited argument as to why I didn’t want to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy to get Canadian citizenship! I had a grab-bag of reasons which she was systematically criticizing, at one point simply grinning and saying, “Your position won’t hold, my girl!” How splendidly British of her.)

  7. I am so sad that Jean has passed. She was tough as nails on the outside and smart as a whip, as her quips and asides would often reveal. She also had a very compassionate, caring side to her that I think she was starting to express philosophically in her work on empathy. I am sorry I never got to write that paper on martial arts and philosophy with her that we were going to do – she had only just raised it as an idea after I came out of hospital myself. Feminist philosophy in Canada has suffered another significant loss but we have a legacy of work to share from, to inspire, and to learn from for a long time to come.

  8. I met Jean last fall to discuss some very sensitive issues to do with animal care.This wonderful lady helped me through this very difficult time.I am forever grateful.Thanks jean for being so caring!.Doug

  9. Many people will miss Jean. As one of those who received her support and kindness, I have been devastated by her death.

  10. I studied at the University of Guelph and had the honour of being a student of hers. One particular line from her book Civilized Oppression has stuck with me for a long time, and I feel safe sharing it here without also having to provide more context, as its a beautiful testament to her ability to express so simply and interestingly a concept or idea: “When Caligula tells a joke, people laugh.”

  11. I had known Jean for a great 14 years , I cant get out of my mind , she is gone soooo fast .Miss her for ever, and will be in my heart for ever .RIP

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