Aziz Choudry in Quebec City, 2007. Photo: Orin Langelle / photolangelle.org
We at GJEP got the shocking news yesterday that our close friend and comrade Aziz Choudry, a founding member of GJEP’s Board of Directors, passed away on Wednesday at his home in Johannesburg at a mere 54 years of age.
GJEP co-founder Orin Langelle and I met Aziz in Wellington, New Zealand at a global forest strategy meeting with the Native Forest Network back in November of 2000. Aziz at the time was living in Christchurch and invited us to stay with him for a few days. We hit it off immediately and were close friends ever since. When Aziz moved to Montreal to get his PhD at Concordia University and later teach at McGill, he was a mere 2 hours from our home in Vermont. We were ecstatic to be able to see him in that beautiful city as well as in Vermont, where he came to enjoy time around our campfire before boycotting the U.S. entirely due in part to the government’s rising Islamophobia and targeting of political activists in the escalation of the war in the Middle East.
Aziz had an incredibly deep and sharp analysis of neoliberalism, global economic domination, and social injustice and pulled no punches in his critique which left few unscathed, and which was documented in an amazing ten books and countless other writings (see below). As a Board member for Global Justice Ecology Project, he helped us hone our mission, vision and programs. He was at once serious and amused, with a great sense of humor–like introducing us to South Park at his place in Christchurch in 2000.
Our loss is cavernous, and the movement has lost a powerful voice for workers and oppressed peoples everywhere.
¡Aziz Choudry Presente!
–Anne Petermann, GJEP co-founder and Executive Director
More from Aziz’s colleague and our friend Patrick Bond:
It’s such a heart break to report that Aziz Choudry has left us. I have no details about his death in Johannesburg, but the UJ Centre for Education Rights and Transformation and SARChI Chair in Community, Adult and Worker Education led by Salim Vally have a brief tribute below. On June 5 there will be much more to say. But already, the social media accounts of his impact on people pay great testimony to how he worked as teacher, activist and friend.
Aziz arrived from McGill University to join us as a full-time staff member of our Centre in February this year after a number of years as a visiting professor with our Faculty. He enjoyed a longstanding scholarly relation with all of the staff and expressed a profound affinity with our work.Aziz was the quintessential scholar-activist and was deeply sensitive to injustices wherever they occurred. He made significant global contributions to social movement learning, knowledge production in community organisations, activist archives, immigrant workers’ education, anti-racist/anti-colonial education and related fields.
He will also be remembered for his unstinting and selfless devotion to the students he supervised and taught as well as the many academics and movement activists he mentored throughout the world. He was also an untiring international solidarity activist supporting indigenous, Palestinian and anticolonial struggles. Aziz helped activists work around opposing surveillance and repression, unfair trade, and supported activism around food sovereignty and climate justice. He was a strong advocate of education as a public good and championed the struggle for a decommodified and decolonial academy.
Prof. Choudry wrote prolifically and is the author and co-editor of the following ten books between 2009 and 2020: Organize! Building from the Local for Global Justice (2012); Activists and the Surveillance State: Learning from Repression (2019); Learning from the Ground Up: Global Perspectives on Social Movements and Knowledge Production (2010); Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements (2015); Unfree Labour? Struggles of Migrant and Immigrant Workers in Canada (2016); Fight Back: Workplace Justice for Immigrants (2009); NGOization: Complicity, Contradictions and Prospects (2013); The University and Social Justice: Struggle Across the Globe (2020); Just Work? Migrant Workers’ Struggle Today (2016) and Reflections on Knowledge, Learning and Social Movements: History’s Schools (2018).
Aziz’s praxis and vision for a kinder and humane world will always inspire and remain with us.To honour his memory, an initial virtual meeting will be held on 5 June, 7:30pm SAST, 6:30pm UK time, 1:30pm Montreal, Canada, 5:30am Christchurch, New Zealand.
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