Neil Smith

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. We invite you to share your thoughts below.

With deepest regrets and many tears, Padmini


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About Keith Miyake

Keith Miyake is a graduate of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. His work crosses the fields of political economic geography, environmental justice and environmental governance, critical race and ethnic studies, American studies, and Asian American studies. His dissertation examined the institutionalization of environmental and racial knowledges within the contemporary capitalist state.

215 thoughts on “Neil Smith

  1. Mine is one more voice to celebrate the beauty of such an exceptional soul. I knew Neil’s generosity and kindness, his warmth, his humility, his compassion. Neil was a rare leftist who lived the values that he held dearly. Neil believed that another world is possible and it was in that spirit that he touched people. A special thanks for the inspiration and courage he gave me as editor of DESIGNER/builder magazine and for the beautiful letter he sent me when my husband died.

    With love,

  2. Je viens de realicer ma these dans lécole des hautes etudes en sciencies sociales. Je n’avais conu personalement a professeur Neil mais si bien son ouvre. Ses idees sont presents dans mon etude sur la segregation socio espacial en Colombie. Je remercie les paroles du professeur Neil a mon travail, et les actions et luttes qui porte sa vie.
    Un reve qui porte chaque action, est un vie present.

  3. I hate to hear this sad news. I deeply regret the sudden death of Neil. I was able to hear a few years ago at a conference in Barcelona. His ideas were always stimulating.

    A big greeting to yours from Galicia, a small corner Atlantic.

  4. Vengo de realizar mi tesis en la Escuela de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Sociales (EHESS), si bien no conoci personalmente al profesor Smith, si conocí su obra a través de este proceso. Debo decir que sus ideas estan presentes en este trabajo donde trato de desarrollar la idea sobre la segregacion socio espacial en Colombia. Agradezco los especiales aportes del profesor Neil a esta obra y por supuesto a las acciones y luchas que trae su trabajo.
    Agradezco mucho haber conocido desde su obra.

  5. A very sad day. I didn’t know him personally but his work impacted on me very much indeed with its lucidlity, passion and commitment. One of the big ones!

  6. An inspirational scholar with fire in his belly. My condolences to his family and to those closest to him.

  7. Pingback: Neil Smith RIP « NUIM Geography's Eye on the World

  8. Neil, I am grateful to have known you, for your intellectual influence and, most of all, for that time you came to visit in Miami and inspired our graduate students like no one ever did, before or after. You will be missed. Have a good journey.

  9. A few years back, as a first-year PhD student, I cold-called Neil and asked him if I could spend a few months at the Centre for Place, Culture and Politics. I’d been on a steady diet of his work (still am!) and I couldn’t believe it when he responded right away and welcomed me with open arms. That year at the CUNY Graduate Centre was one of the best of my life and I had countless amazing conversations with Neil and everyone else that I met there. The things I learned that year continue to shape my work to this day. Neil, you were an academic giant but also such a kind, friendly soul; so generous with your time and knowledge, and always up for a bit of fun. You will be sorely missed.

  10. My dear Neil. I’m hit hard at news of your passing. Though I haven’t seen you since I left Rutgers a lifetime ago, I think of you often and feel we have unfinished business to talk through. I guess it will have to wait. What an inspiration you have been to so many to not only understand the world, but to change it. You lived life to the full. You’ll be missed comrade.

    Marcus Strom
    Sydney, Australia.

  11. I still can’t believe it; this is too sudden. I can still picture you in Slattery’s and the halls of the GC laughing and fully engaged with your students…

  12. Neil was my wonderful friend and mentor, and the best boss ever. I’m devastated by his too soon loss. I miss his laughter and hugs already.

    Love always

  13. I only knew Neil through seeing him at conferences, where he was (as everyone else here knows) always a fascinating, passionate speaker. His depth of knowledge always amazed me. However, I remember him more as someone who was happy to speak to people (including myself as a nervous PhD student) and to encourage them with his enthusiasm. My thoughts are with his family and friends.


    • Around Neil there was never any doubt about the meaningfulness of our work – which for him always meant the work of his students as much as his own – for the cause of a more just and joyful future. How lightly he bore the weight of our hopes! How heavy they feel now without him.

  14. Geographers Brazilians mourn the loss of Neil Smith that much but it makes for a very radical critique geography. We send a hug to your close friends and family.

  15. We talk for more than an hour two months ago trying to find new ways of political and academic engages. All your work and your political commitment was an inspiration for my work and for others. I will miss you as well as all colleages you left in Mexico.

    Love forever

  16. Like most great geographers, you read and cite their work before you meet them. Uneven Development was a great help during my thesis and I was lucky enough in March 2012 to meet Neil at King’s College. He was an inspiration to a generation of geographers and critics of capitalism. His passing is a great, great shame.

  17. Neil is the latest of a series of progressive academics who were both friends and inspirations. Like Matt Edel, David Gordon, and Ben Harrision, Neil died way too young. Long after the shock and grief at Neil’s passing metamorphosize into a “mere” pain we will all bear for the rest of our lives, we will often think of how much we miss Neil and how much we could use his sharp mind to help us make sense out of the current conjuncture.

    My last conversation with Neil was at the AAG meeting in New York. Over a beer, we had a lively discussion of the use value of the labor theory of value. This is how I remember Neil when I first met him in the 1980s, and how I will always remember him: a larger-than-life personality, gifted with a remarkable mind, brimming with warmth and joie de vivre, humble, helpful, respectful, and blast to be around.

    I will miss him.

  18. Very sad to learn about the loss of a world class scholar, whose writings and conversations inspired me and many others over the years. The Finnish winter has come early.

    Thanks for everything Neil

    Gareth Rice.

  19. This is a tragic and terrible loss. Neil Smith was a great and generous man who will be sadly missed.

  20. Neil reminded me that I was geographer back in the early 1990’s. I never thanked him properly but even now I see the heavens tilting a little more to the left.

  21. Neil Smith’s commitment and critical thought were inspiring, and Smith’s work remains an essential touchstone to anyone working in geocriticism or spatiality studies. He will be missed. Thank you for your tremendous contributions to geography, urban studies, social criticism, and politically engaged intellectual labour.

  22. Larger than life and inspiring are both right on! I too am stunned. In a testament to his influence, before getting this news, I was already in the thick of a critical conversation on gentrification with my urban sociology class.
    He will be remembered.

  23. Neil helped to create a vibrant circle of inspiration, critique, and community at the Grad Center that will live on through his students, friends, and colleagues. He will be deeply, deeply missed.

  24. Years ago as a graduate student I submitted a paper to Neil for Society and Space. While most editors would surely have let their reviewers do the work for them, many months later I heard back from Neil with the most closely marked up paper that I’ve received before or since, scrawled over in pencil with pointed questions across the margins. Neil liked the paper, he said, but if I wanted to revise it for publication I would really need to “begin where I left off.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear at the time, but of course he was right, and his response – challenging, critical, generous – was, as many will recognize, a characteristic one, prodding and inspiring me to push on.

  25. The long list of comments here says so much – it was impossible not to love Neil’s energy, his passion for the project, and the way he made geography cool. It was wonderful to have known him. Sending love to his family and friends. Jane

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  27. Like so many of you Neil touched my life through his great intellect, insights, courageous work and humor. I first met Neil in 1986 at the IGU in Sydney and from that time was inspired – culminating in my doctorate on gentrification. But above and beyond this wonderful personal encouragement is the impact on my students and my family. My younger daughter now living in New York met up with Neil only a few weeks ago – delighted to introduce her husband to this wonderful larger than life colleague of her mother’s and a friendship forged over 30 years ago. I am so sad he will not get to Tasmania to bird watch and I am so sad to know he is now missing from the ranks of great geographers. A toast to you Neil with the best of Aussie beers – a great bloke and beloved of many.

  28. I met Neil when he visited Queen’s University Belfast in the mid-2000s. He was a truly inspirational academic; strikingly bright and rigorous and also a lot of fun to be around. I remember well meeting him over a beer to talk about my work and being amazed at the modesty and openness of this big name beside me, as a lowly and awe-struck first year PhD student! He said a few really encouraging things then and had some great advice to give, which has stayed with me. Thoughts and strength to his family, friends and colleagues. A genuine loss to Geography, and his great work will live on.

  29. You have some people in your mind that you think of from time to time even if you have not met for years. Neil is such a person to me. You felt his inclusive attitude the first second you met him, he always had concerns for you when meeting, he was so easy to be around. It’s so sad to realise he is now only in my head…..

  30. I met Neil when he was appointed as a part-time Sixth Century Professor at Aberdeen, and when we visited New York to develop collaboration with CUNY. He was a lovely, warm and welcoming man, and I enjoyed his hospitality and fun. He leaves a big hole in the world.

  31. Did not get to meet him, but he was open and helpful even to strangers from afar! Provoked my thinking… a universalist… May he and his family know peace…

    RT – South Africa

  32. I had the good fortune to share some drinks and good conversation with Neil at recent AAG meetings and at the home of JP Jones in Tucson, and I had assumed that there would be more to come. I am deeply saddened by this news, and I wish strength to his family and friends as they mourn his passing.

    Neil’s work inspired me as scholar, and I will surely be sharing his insights with new generations of scholars in the years ahead.

    John Baldridge
    Member of the Faculty
    The Evergreen State College

  33. Thank you to Neil. I was so looking forward to some rip-roaring arguments in the upcoming year. My heart goes out to the family.

  34. Just heard this very terrible and shocking news. To Neil’s family and close friends: “Courage…”
    I first met Neil through the Union of Socialist Geographers in Toronto in the late 1970s. We were the same age. Back then, we had some passionate intellectual disagreements, but always got on well in person every time our paths crossed, and at our last meeting we toasted to a mock reconciliation during an Antipode reception at the 2009 AAG!
    Neil was a such very warm and generous person as well as a brilliant, inspirational and courageous scholar and teacher. His legacy will be a wide-ranging, deep and rich one.

  35. Neil’s work greatly influenced my research and teaching, and shaped the way that I experienced urban space and understood its relationship to social movements. I’ll always be grateful for his kind encouragement, theoretical insights, and radical vision. I’ll think of him whenever I spot the anti-gentrification graffiti that still appears near Tompkins Square Park, and elsewhere across the city, with hopeful regularity.

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  37. One of the big surprises during my residence at the CUNY was the quantity of friendly faces. One of the friendliest was yours, dear Neil. You leave to me that, yours books, a party, a walk at the Village and a lot of curiosity to go deeper in your thinking. Many thanks.
    I send a big hug to those who are close to you and all the people of anthropology and geography.
    Claudia Zamorano Mexico, City.

  38. Very sad to hear of another valued one entering the realm of the ancestors. A loss in many ways and to many. My very sincere condolences to his close family, friends and colleagues.

  39. We will always remember his substantial contribution to critical geography and its resonances in Latin American debates.

    With regrets,

    Monica Arroyo-Perla Zusman

  40. I knew Neil best as a birder. And I am so grateful for the times we spent together thrashing around in thickets and mud and cactus (either just us or accompanied by others: Diana Liverman, Cindi Katz, Sallie Marston, Marv Waterstone, and anyone else who would tolerate it) looking for many, many birds. We saw Green Kingfisher in Arizona, Citreoline Trogon in Mexico, Pel’s Fishing Owl in Zimbabwe, warblers at Cape May, gulls in Jamaica Bay. Each venture Neil was generous with his time, wisdom, and enthusiasm, and always was looking, listening, and learning. The last time I saw Neil was in Tucson, at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where JP Jones, Paul Robbins, Sarah Moore, and others had taken him after he presented a talk here. I gave him a big hug and we talked just briefly, but of course about birds, and where he could go with his hosts the next day, Valentine’s Day, looking for things that sparked his heart: Sandhill Cranes, Swainson’s Hawks, and a Blue Mockingbird that had flown north from Sonora. That’s how I’ll remember Neil: with binoculars and bird books, and a satisfied smile beaming broadly at the world.

  41. A loss for geograpy and the social sciences. Neil was a brilliant scholar, a pleasure to see, hear and read, and someone who made geography a very a cutting edge discipline in the conference hall and down the pub.

    Kalo taxidi Neil.

  42. I am shocked by this sad news. Since we crossed paths at Johns Hopkins Neil has been such brilliant,enthusiastic and humorous comrade and a very generous friend. I remember his joy every time he visited Tenerife . Neil, you will be dearly missed.

    Condolence with Neil’s family and close friends

    Luz Marina García-Herrera

    (La Laguna, Tenerife)

  43. This tragedy is almost too much to comprehend. As so eloquently and passionately stated on this site, his many friends and colleagues benefitted from Neil’s great warmth, companionship and humanitarian qualities. Here in Aberdeen things were no different, and we were looking forward to the sage advice and support which would inevitably have flowed from his next visit. Neil belonged to everyone – to those of us who knew him in earlier times to those just setting out on their geographical journey for whom he will be an inspiration.

    Rest well big man and condolences to his family and loved ones.

  44. Like so many I was shocked to hear the news of Neil’s death. My contact with him faded in recent years after we had worked together on the gentrification book but I kept an eye open for his wide ranging and powerful contributions. Geography has sometimes struggled to get recognition for its theoretical power but Neil achieved that and we owe him a great deal. Fortunately because he was larger than life, generous and welcoming his impact was huge and so his insight and energy will continue to flow – thank heavens! My great sympathy to family, friends and close colleagues but I think the testimonies here should give you strength and support, Peter

  45. I am stunned by his death. I knew him for quarter of a century. We both came from central Scotland, but we first met in Australia in 1986. The next year I stayed with him in NYC during his brief sojourn at Columbia. We were never really close but over the intervening years I did look forward to meeting him at conferences and seminars and always enjoyed my encounters with his writings. He was committed, gifted and generous. He is a great loss.

  46. I had the privilege of getting to know Neil at Rutgers. Thanks to him, I found an intellectual home, if just In the weekly seminars at the CCACC. Thanks Neil, for being such a true comrad and mentor, and for showing me how revolutionaries play golf!

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