Two York professors to receive lifetime achievement awards

For two York professors, receiving an award for Lifetime Achievement in African Studies from the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) represents a major acknowledgement of decades of work in African liberation, research and teaching.

York Professor Emeritus John S. Saul and York Distinguished Research Professor in African history Paul Lovejoy will be presented with the awards during the opening reception of the conference of the Canadian Association of African Studies – Africa Here; Africa There – at York May 5 to 7.

As York history Professor José C. Curto, co-organizer of the conference along with sociology Professor Ratiba Hadj-Moussa, says, “They’ve spent a lifetime fighting, in one way or another, for Africa. You can’t get any better than them.”

John S. SaulRight: John S. Saul

President of the CAAS Dennis Cordell wrote that Saul’s research achievements, along with his “deep and long-standing commitment to the struggle for equity, equality and human rights in Africa” are legion. He also pointed to Lovejoy’s “wonderful abilities to teach and mentor” students and younger colleagues.

Paul LovejoyLeft: Paul Lovejoy

Lovejoy says the award is significant to him “because of the recognition of my contribution to understanding the history of people of African descent especially so since this is the UN International Year for People of African Descent and my personal commitment to exposing the crime of the ‘slave route’ and seeking reconciliation that can only be based on truth about the past.”

In addition to receiving lifetime achievement awards, both Saul and Lovejoy will launch books in conjunction with the conference Saturday, May 7, at Accents on Eglinton Bookstore, 1790 Eglinton Ave. W., Toronto. Saul’s Liberation Lite: The Roots of Recolonization in Southern Africa (Three Essay Collective) will launch beginning at 6:30pm, followed by The Harriet Tubman Institute Series of which Lovejoy is the general series editor at 7pm. There are 10 books in the Tubman series, including Slavery, Islam and Diaspora; Africa, Brazil and the Construction of Trans Atlantic Black Identities; and Africa and the Americas: Interconnections During the Slave Trade.

Book coverLiberation Lite is comprised of five essays. “The theme I’m emphasizing is that of liberation as a multiplex concept,” says Saul. His definition of liberation would include race, nation, class and gender, but also a democratically empowered voice. “Others in Africa and elsewhere have come to define liberation only in terms of the narrow construct of national independence.”

Saul says liberation has to be multidimensional to be a useful concept. “We expected the liberation struggle would yield more than that,” more than simply national liberation, but also class, race and gender freedom.  It is not simply an emphasis that “we white lefties had dreamt up and taken over to Africa. We learned it there. We learned it there from Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane, FRELIMO’s first president, for example.” As it stands, “liberation has been pretty light and those who are concerned have to figure out how to deepen and enrich it,” he says. He also takes a critical stance towards global capitalism and corporate imperialism, and what he calls the “re-colonizing” of Africa by a new “empire of capital”. In consequence, the concluding essay looks at why socialism still has significant resonance and merit in southern Africa and beyond.

Saul has published some 19 books, including Book coverRevolutionary Traveller: Freeze Frames from a Life (Arbeiter Ring, 2009) (see YFile, Jan. 13, 2010), Development after Globalization: Theory and Practice for the Book coverEmbattled South in a New Imperial Age (Fernwood Publishing, 2006) and Decolonization and Empire: Contesting the Rhetoric and Reality of Resubordination in Southern Africa and Beyond (Fernwood Publishing, 2008).

He is hard at work on three more books. He says the lifetime achievement award may well be an acknowledgement of his body of work, but he is also accepting it “on behalf of all those who have worked diligently in support of South African-related struggles over the years, as well as against Canada’s own complicity – that is, our government and corporations too often being on the wrong side of such struggles there.” In 2004, Saul was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Book coverLast year, Lovejoy received the Distinguished Africanist Research Excellence Award from the University of Texas at Austin for his dedication, lifetime of service and contributions to the discipline (see YFile, April 9, 2010). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History, and has dedicated his career to researching and teaching African history.

For more information, visit the Harriet Tubman Institute website.