Neil R. Smith, 1954 – 2012

It is with incredible sorrow that I write to share the news that we lost Neil Smith in the early hours of this morning. He had been hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon with organ failures, and despite some moments of hope, could not  greet another day with us. Words cannot describe this sudden tragedy. Neil was larger than life, brilliant, an inspiration and loved by so many.

I will provide the CPCP community with further updates as they are available. You can still share your thoughts at

With deepest regrets and many tears, Padmini

181 thoughts on “Neil R. Smith, 1954 – 2012

  1. Pingback: » 2012: Moments Footenotes

  2. Pingback: It is with great sadness that the geographical community in Ireland marks the passing of Prof Neil Smith « Geographical Society of Ireland

  3. Couldn’t believe when i heard the news. Shocked. Wonderful guy — kind, generous, intelligent, committed. What else can one say?

  4. Pingback: October 2012: Borderlands, New Publication, Neil | Tina Harris

  5. Neil: thank you for the openness, the generosity, the inspiration, the fun, the excitement, the faith, the questions, the energy, the seriousness of purpose (when the time came for that), and that great legacy of articles, books and people you guided, supervised and launched into professions with passion like yours to transform the world. We’re still working on it. Farewell.

  6. Neil, you have had a profound influence on so many of the people you worked with—your passion and intellectual prowess will continue to live and thrive through all of us. I loved watching football (soccer) with you while chatting theory and politics, and will miss those stimulating and engaging times.

  7. Pingback: Gentrificació (I) | La Trama Urbana

  8. With a sense of pervasive sadness, I keep remembering the first time I met Neil; it was at a meeting of Socialist Geographers, in Montreal in 1978. He came over and put a copy of a paper he had just written into my hand; words were somehow not necessary. I can see your curly hair, warm, mischievous and deeply intelligent eyes and your unforgettable presence. Neil, I shall never forget your unique humanity, your lasting genorosity and your brilliant intellect. Rest in peace.

    David Slater

  9. In Memory of Neil Smith – a Great Mentor

    It is with a deep sense of sorrow that I write to say ‘thank you’ Neil and sorry you
    withdrew from the Frankfurt conference at the last moment.

    My gratitude to Neil stems from when I first met him in Hungary many years
    ago, where he invited me to write a guest editorial on the meaning and scope
    of critical thinking, giving me a free hand to conceptulaise it as a kind of
    thinking that, far from being entrenched in any particular shape or form, spans
    continents, cultures and politics, towards the fulfillment of human happiness
    and friendship. My sorrow comes from not seeing him and a number of other
    colleagues and friends in Frankfurt, where old debates, old friendships and old
    memories were re-visited.

    My even deeper sorrow will forever be mine alone. I was just about to write to
    Neil and some other colleagues and friends when an e-mail brought news of his
    untimely death.

    Instead, I dedicate to him an extract from an ancient poem, which I have always
    found soothing at such times:

    In search of Wisdom,
    I was always bold;
    There were few secrets,
    That I couldn’t unfold;
    And yet, I found out
    That I know nothing;
    Although I am 72 years old.

    In my childhood,
    To a teacher I went;
    My later days, as a teacher I spent;
    Guess what will befall us in the end?
    From earth we rose and to earth we shall be sent.

    One breath divides faith from disbelief,
    One breath divides doubt from belief,
    Enjoy this one breath of your life,
    That’s your existence,
    So brief.

    Helen Sakho

  10. Pingback: Neil Smith in Antipode |

  11. I’m very saddened by the news of Neil’s passing. When I think of him the tune of The Wild Rover comes to my mind and I still hear him singing this Celtic drinking song with gusto as a group of Clark graduate students, with Neil as a ring in, drove non-stop for 3 days from Worcester to New Orleans to the 1980 AAG meetings. Much of the time the van was driven by Jim Lyons, also now sadly gone, himself also a keen minstrel. So Neil and Jim are with me as I sing…

    And it’s no, nay, never
    No nay ever no more
    Will I play the wild rover
    No never, no more

    Goodbye wild rover.

  12. Pingback: Neil Smith on Revolution « Experimental Geographies

  13. I would not be the geographer I am without the work of Neil. I always thought there would be more time to speak more with him as his ideas inspired me so greatly…. what a great loss to the discipline. My condolences to all of his close friends and family.

  14. Pingback: [Podcast] Remembering Urban Scholar-Activist Neil Smith, 1954-2012 « the city

  15. The world has lost one of his most brilliant minds and gentle souls. A great loss to world. I am saddened and deeply shocked.
    It was too short, but I am sure glad you were here. Goodbye dear Neil Smith.

  16. I heard this shocking news just as I was entering Neil’s name in an index ….again. I remember Neil happily volunteering to take a group of undergraduates he had never met around the lower east side on a cold March day expecting nothing in return and sharing his knowledge and his political commitment with grateful visitors form Wales. How many times he must have done this! So generous in every way. And he could dance too!

  17. Pingback: Neil R. Smith on the heart of neo­lib­er­al­ism + revanchism | Thoughts on Everything under the Sun or I am a guilty Secularist

  18. Pingback: Traurige Nachricht: Neil Smith ist gestorben « Gentrification Blog

  19. Very sad news. As an undergraduate I have found his work nothing but an inspiration. A true loss for academia and beyond.
    Rest in Peace.

  20. I am still trying to come to terms with the loss of a long standing friend and comrade from St.Andrews Uni. I was looking forward to spending more time with you old friend, remembering the good times, the politics, the self-organised student courses in the geography department, the IS society (all 4 of us!) demonstrating against Edward Heath and much much more… but most importantly how important you were in my life. Clearly in the 40 years since those heady days you continued to give your enthusiasm, passion, intellect and love to many more people. I will never forget you. “A luta continua”.


  21. Neil, You were such an inspiration to us all and such a lovely guy. You leave a huge gap and remarkable memories. Love you for ever.

  22. Neil, I still can’t believe it. You have changed the way of thinking, political awareness, favorite beer and bird, and the whole life of so many of us at so many places that you have certainly changed the world. Although your books will remain on my bookshelf, your singing at the ICGG conference in Békéscsaba will echoes in my ears forever, my world will be much poorer without you.

  23. I knew Neil when we were at Rutgers. I often thought that when you looked into his eyes, you were looking into the eyes of Karl Marx.

    Neil had such a powerful mind, always going full throttle. He had such insightful things to say about all that he observed.

    But more than that, his compassion, caring and sense of humor were every bit as much a part of him. He was truly larger than life.

    We have lost one of the great minds of our time. Neil, we shall never forget you. May you rest in peace.

  24. This is sad beyond words. How to cope without Neil’s passion, intellect, friendship, solidarity and love?

    Rest in peace


  25. Neil was one of the reasons I decided to study geography. After leaving a frustrating urban planning course i heard music coming from down the hall. After more than a few beers and discussing revolutionary projects with this ball of energetic intellect, I was hooked. Read broadly and focus narrowly he often repeated to me. Neil was also a major force in my pursuing activism as he bluntly advised that i wasn’t academic material. He was right though he pissed me off at the time. We definitely had a dialectical relationship. He was brash and challenging. He’ll be missed.

  26. Neil –
    You hit us like a meteor when you came to Berlin in 1997 & ever since.
    We will never forget your support in 2007f, outstanding!

  27. What shocking and deeply saddening news of Neil’s death. A superb intellect with impressive range, Neil lived life to the fullest and gave so generously of himself to colleagues, students, friends and comrades.
    Passionate about understanding and explaining the worlds that surround us and deeply commited to radical change, he embodied the rigorous, contemplative scholar and social-institutional activist. I valued greatly his friendship and the generosity of spirit that so many others have noted. Given our common Scottish roots, I’ll end by saying he truly was a “Flower of the Forest” and I lament his passing.

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