Distinguished award for Professor Emeritus John Saul

York Professor Emeritus John Saul has been accorded a significant honour by the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of the Sciences and Humanities. Saul has been elected to the society as a Fellow in recognition of his long and illustrious career as a scholar.

On Nov. 20, Saul received the honour during a special ceremony in Ottawa. He was one of 60 New Fellows and two Foreign Fellows elected to the society’s ranks (announced July 5, 2004). Saul and the other newly elected Fellows were lauded for their efforts in achieving excellence in their scholarly endeavours.

Fellowship in the society is one of the most prestigious academic accolades to which scholars and scientists aspire. “The society is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of the New Fellows”, said Gilles Paquet, president of the Royal Society. “They add, in a meaningful and significant way, to the extraordinary wealth of talent, expertise and experience of the society.”

Left: John Saul

In its citation celebrating Saul’s induction as a Fellow, the Royal Society said: “John Saul is one of Canada’s best known Africanists and a significant participant in national policy debates in the Republic of South Africa, as well as in other countries in the Southern Africa region, and even, as a long-time anti-apartheid writer and activist, in Canada itself. In fact, he has demonstrated expertise on a number of the nations of the southern part of the African continent and has written influential books and articles on each. His work has addressed major strategic development problems and profound moral issues, with significant theoretical and analytic sophistication and a fine mastery of historical detail. Canadian knowledge of southern Africa, and of politics and development in Africa generally, owe much to the high-quality, committed scholarship of John Saul.”

In the wake of his induction, Wenona Giles, Chair of the School of Social Sciences, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, talked of his long service to the University. “He has been a wonderful colleague in the School of Social Sciences (and the previous Social Science Department) for many years and we recently celebrated his retirement,” she said. “There was an international conference held in his honour and the School of Social Sciences hosted a retirement reception in Atkinson for him and his many colleagues and friends.”

Canadian newspaper columnist, playwright and author Rick Salutin wrote the following tribute to Saul in his column which appeared in the Oct. 15 issue of The Globe & Mail:

“In the late 1960s, he [Saul] went to Africa to do his PhD, and struck roots there too. He wrote prolifically; he is in the Northrop Frye-Marshall McLuhan league for citations by a Canadian author. But he also committed himself to Africa morally and politically. He allied with Frelimo, the revolutionary Mozambican liberation movement, while its members were exiled in Tanzania.

“He worked with them, traveled secretly in the then-Portuguese colony and was Canada’s official unofficial presence at independence in 1975. He taught there and saw the defeat of those early hopes under the auspices of South Africa’s apartheid regime next door. His writings, you might say, are all about instilling hope and learning from failure.

“I visited Mozambique in 1978 during those years of liberation and radical change at John’s urging and because I knew many Frelimo leaders were also poets. In remote villages in the province of Cabo Delgado, people would ask with wonder, Do you really know John Saul? He is in a sort of underground, alternate Canadian tradition to the internationalism of Lester Pearson. It includes Dr. Norman Bethune, who worked in Spain and China in the 1930s, and Dr. Chris Giannou today.”

Saul’s contributions to York’s Faculty of Arts was celebrated recently in a conference devoted to his scholarly endeavours and research into Africa. The conference, titled “Africa: The Next Liberation”, was held on Oct. 16. (See the Oct. 15Nov. 4 issues of YFile for more on the conference.)

More about John Saul

Educated at the University of Toronto, Princeton University (New Jersey) and London University (London, England), Saul taught for the better part of a decade in Africa (Tanzania and Mozambique).

He has written and edited some 10 books on African political developments (including Essays on the Political Economy of Africa (with Giovanni Arrighi), The Crisis in South Africa (with Stephen Gelb), Socialist Ideology and the Struggle for Southern Africa, Recolonization and Resistance: Southern Africa in the 1990s and Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword (with Colin Leys). Saul is also founding member (1972) of the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa (TCLSAC).  

Saul edited This Magazine in Toronto for 10 years from the early 1970s and was editor of Southern Africa Report for 15 years. Most recently, Saul returned to South Africa to teach. His most recent book titled, The Next Liberation Struggle: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa will be published by Between the Lines (in Canada), Monthly Review Press (in the US), Merlin Books (in the UK) and University of Natal Press (in South Africa) in spring (2005).

Currently, Saul is working on a new book which documents the history of the liberation struggle in South Africa. It will be titled “The Thirty Years War for Southern African Liberation, 1960-1990”. He is also getting ready to teach (post-retirement) next term in political science.