Rejected doctoral thesis launched as a book


Charles Simon-Aaron was not totally surprised when the doctoral committee rejected his dissertation 12 years ago for being “too political for academic purposes”.

The Atlantic Slave Trade: Empire, Establishment and the Cult of the Unthinking Negro explores the inter-relationship between the institutionalized political philosophical construction and reproduction of European and anti-African hatred within the Western academy and the birth and reproduction of European imperialism.

Both projects grounded a part of their ideological foundation in the cultivation and reproduction of the myth of the “unthinking Negro”.

Simon-Aaron was eventually granted his doctorate in 2002 after making major adjustments to his original thesis which he compiled into a 692-page book that was launched last week at the Trane Studio.

“The original dissertation was rejected because every institution of learning has its parameters of what is permitted,” Simon-Aaron told Share. “When I wrote this, I essentially sabotaged the dominant way of looking at the European Enlightenment and the dominant philosophies in the Enlightenment. What I was essentially saying was that these principally White European males like David Hume and John Locke were part and parcel of a project and they had a particular way of seeing the world during the Atlantic Slave Trade.

“What scholars have never yet twinned is the existence of the Atlantic Slave Trade and the existence of the Enlightenment. What I did was to say these thinkers all had a particular way of seeing the African person and this way was directly related to the need on the part of European nations engaged in the trade to justify its existence to themselves, to their communities and to those who they were oppressing.

“So what has been the legacy of this particular way of viewing the African as essentially incapable of rationale thought on the one hand and only capable of sexual indulgence on the other is that today we are still haunted by the construction and reproduction of this mythology. When it’s a mythology that procures so much wealth, it’s no longer myth. It’s reality.”

Simon-Aaron said he always tried to make the case that African people can think constructively and that they are capable of intellectual reflection.

“The reason why, if you are to study in the European academy, you would not study the dominant African thinkers as I would say is because if you incorporate the African thinkers in the curriculum of the Western World and you say these are philosophers too, the whole content of what is considered philosophy changes,” he said. “You then have to look at issues that are not considered worthy of philosophical reflection such as race, imperialism, colonialism.

“The Western European project of philosophical reflection is premised on the alienation of thought from practical experiences. So when you bring in the African philosopher, we have to deal with that experience because that is a large measure of the reality of African people from their first contact with Europeans to the present moment.”

A sessional instructor in the Guelph-Humber University department of Liberal Arts, Simon-Aaron dedicated the book to family and friends, including community activist, Dudley Laws, Cikiah Thomas and former Member of the Provincial Parliament, House Speaker and Canadian diplomat, Alvin Curling, who have supported his project.

“This is not an individual journey,” he said. “It’s a community project that one individual brought to a conclusion. I might never write this way again because I wrote this for other people. All my writing hereafter will be for myself.”

He said the book will soon be available at A Different Booklist.

Born in Guyana, Simon-Aaron attended high school in Bristol, England where he said he developed his deep political thought and ideas. He followed his parents to Canada in the 1980s and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from York University in 1986 and a Masters in Political Science from McMaster University two years later.

He said he’s working to publish his 500-page doctoral manuscript, Class Ideology and African Political Theory, which outlines the social and historical context of the political ideas of three of modern Africa’s most influential thinkers, Cheikh Anta Diop, Amilcar Cabral and Kwame Nkrumah.

Simon-Aaron has also written a manuscript titled, Post Hitlerian Threat Disorder.

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