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UJ to confer honorary doctoral degree on Liberation activist

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) will be awarding a honorary doctoral degree on a Canadian political economist and activist, Prof John Shannon Saul, whose work has focused on the liberation struggles of southern Africa, from the 1960s to the present.

Professor Saul will receive a UJ Faculty of Humanities honorary degree, Doctor Honoris Causa Philosophiae, for demonstrating commitment to academic excellence in pursuit of social justice. This honorary degree is in recognition of the remarkable contribution he has made to social science in South Africa and the wider region. The conferral is scheduled to take place at UJ’s Auditorium, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, Johannesburg on Wednesday, 13 April 2016 at 5pm.

According to UJ’s Prof David Moore, Head of Department: Faculty of Humanities, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, “Professor Saul has devoted most of his adult and academic life to scholarly solidarity with the liberation struggles in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – both in their anti-colonial stages and now when the promises of liberation are in the process of fulfilment.

“By granting Professor Saul this honorary doctorate, the University of Johannesburg(UJ) is recognising his decades of commitment towards the attainment of full freedom in southern Africa, the legacy of his academic acuity, and signifying the inextricable link between our commitment to social justice and the academic excellence needed to pursue that end.”

Saul is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Toronto’s York University. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Victoria University College at the University of Toronto. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a recipient of the Canadian Association of African Studies’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

“This is an especially great honour for me because support for Southern Africa liberation has for so long been such a central part of my academic and activist life that I see this doctoral degree from the University of Johannesburg within a free South Africa as both personally and politically extremely fulfilling,” says Prof Saul.

In Tanzania, John produced the two volumes of Socialism in Tanzania: Politics and Policies as well as Rural Cooperation in Tanzania and Essays on the Political Economy of Africa with his life-long friends the late Lionel Cliffe and Giovanni Arrighi (both of whom debated their differing approaches to analysing African societies with him before they died.)

John co-edited Socialism and Participation: Tanzania’s 1970 National Election, with the University of Dar es Salaam’s Electoral Studies Committee.

Since John’s return to Canada from Mozambique (including a spell teaching Sociology at Wits) he produced eight more books (some co-written with eminent scholars such as Colin Leys and Patrick Bond) with titles ranging from Socialist Ideology and the Struggle for Southern Africa to Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword to The Next Liberation Struggle: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy in Southern Africa and Revolutionary Traveller: Freeze-Frames from a Life (2009) and many scholarly articles around themes of what in 2010 he defined as the ‘four terrains of liberation’, being race, class, gender and voice.

Two years ago saw A Flawed Freedom: Rethinking Southern African Liberation and last year he published On Building a Social Movement: the North American Campaign for Southern African Liberation Revisited.

Next year Cambridge University Press will cap his career with Southern Africa’s Thirty Year War.

Prof Saul remains a sterling example of international and cross-racial critical academic solidarity with the struggles in southern and eastern Africa for socio-economic justice and full political freedom – and the intense moral, ideological and intellectual resources mustered in that noble endeavour.

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