Passings: John S. Saul


York University Professor Emeritus John S. Saul, a world-renowned scholar and passionate advocate for social justice, passed away on Sept. 23.

John S. Saul
John. S. Saul

Saul, who inspired colleagues and students, as well as those outside the walls of academia, with his rigorous analysis and passion, joined York in 1973 and taught in the Department of Politics for 35 years until reaching age 70 in 2008.

He was a pre-eminent scholar on the politics of southern Africa, particularly in regard to the liberation struggles in that region during the 20th century. His scholarly output is prodigious: more than 20 academic books, more than 70 book chapters, more than 80 refereed journal articles and more than 180 conference publications.

Saul was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; the recipient of honorary degrees from universities in Canada and Africa; and the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association of African Studies.

Not only did Saul conduct groundbreaking and internationally recognized research, but he was also in the forefront of working towards social change in southern Africa, active both on that continent (teaching there, cumulatively, for a decade) and at home in Canada. In Canada, he founded the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa and remained active in that Committee’s wide range of activities for three decades. One of the initiators of the progressive Canadian journal This Magazine, he remained part of the team for more than a decade as a key writer and editor.

Saul’s contributions to York University are many and varied, including being a department Chair. He inaugurated numerous undergraduate courses on African topics and, more generally, on development concerns. He supervised significant doctoral dissertations and contributed to new graduate courses and other initiatives, linked to both African studies and development studies.

For more information on the legacy of Saul, see the University of Johannesburg tribute published on Sept. 26.