Activists and scholars examine the new Africa

A “rare mixture” of participants will converge on York University today for a timely workshop. “Africa: The Next Liberation Struggle: Socialism, Democracy, Activism” will bring together leading international academics and activists to examine the prospects for, and challenges facing, socialism, democracy and social activism on the continent of Africa. The workshop includes a series of panel discussions and a roundtable plenary devoted to exploring these issues. It will take place today and tomorrow in the Senate Chamber, N940 Ross Building.

poster“We are bringing in over 20 program participants and presenters from Africa, Europe, Canada and the US,” said Richard Saunders, York political science professor and conference chair. “We are expecting more than 100 people including academics, community activists, researchers and others. The conference’s rare mixture of township activists from South Africa, Canadian NGO members working in Africa and elsewhere, scholar-activists who have researched and taught in Africa, and students from Canada and abroad, is designed  to stimulate the sharing of diverse experiences and views. The debates should be lively and fresh.

“The workshop is structured to encourage maximum participation from the audience – we want a real dialogue among people. To this end, papers and presentations have been published on the workshop Web site so that all participants can consider them in advance of the discussions.

“A key focus of the workshop is the political and social situation in ‘post-liberation’ Africa,” said Saunders. “Now that we are in the post-colonial era, what new challenges confront Africans and those who work in solidarity with them?”

The workshop borrows its title, “Africa: The Next Liberation Struggle” from a recent article by John Saul, political scientist and York professor emeritus. A renowned African scholar, Saul retired in 2003 after 30 years with the University. Originally with the Department of Political Science in the former Atkinson College (now Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies), Saul now teaches with the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts.

“John Saul combines scholarly excellence with a fierce passion for social justice. It’s not that he scorns objectivity, but that he believes when the objective facts drive you to a firm conclusion, you have a responsibility to pursue the social consequences of that conclusion. John has a wonderful sense of humour and has been a pleasure to work with, though I am always wary of disappointing him, as I know he will not hesitate to let me know about it,” said Robert Drummond, dean of the Faculty of Arts and a professor in the Department of Political Science.

The workshop recognizes Saul’s contribution to African scholarship and activism and is structured along the themes of Saul’s leading contributions to the field. In November, Saul will be honoured in Ottawa by his induction into the fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada.

“Professor Saul will be attending the workshop,” said Saunders. “While the workshop is not limited to a consideration of his work, the themes which have punctuated his career, both academic and intellectual, touch on and reflect wider debates and issues of research in African politics over an extended period of time – debates in which Saul has played a key role.”

Notable panelists and presenters include:

     Giovani Arrighi  Trevor Ngwane  Himani Bannerji
    Giovanni Arrighi, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Global Studies in Culture, Power and History at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimory Maryland 
  • Trevor Ngwane, chairperson of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee, Anti-Privatization Forum, Johannesburg, South Africa 
  • Himani Bannerji, professor of political science, York University
  • Colin Leys, professor emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Queens University
  • Janet Conway, professor of political science, Ryerson University
  • Leo Panitch, professor of political science, York University
  • Darlene Miller, professor of political science, Rhodes University, South Africa
  • Greg Ruiters, professor of political science, Rhodes University, South Africa
  • Ato Sekyi-Otu, professor in the division of social science, York University
  • Manfred Bienefeld, professor of public policy and administration, Carleton University

This conference has been funded with support from the following:

  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • Associate Vice-President Research, York
  • Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York
  • Office of the Dean, Faculty of Arts, York
  • Office of the Director, Division of Social Sciences, York
  • Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, York
  • Office of the Master, McLaughlin College, York
  • Department of Political Science (Arts), York
  • African Studies Program (Arts), York
  • Office of Research Administration, York

Those wishing to attend the workshop should click here for full conference details, online registration and the conference papers.