Murray Low has passed on the sad news of the death of Edward Soja. I first heard him talk on Postmodern Geographies in 1995 – this would have been work that ended up in Thirdspace – and the talk really motivated me to examine the spatial aspects of Foucault and Lefebvre. A review of Thirdspace was my first academic publication. I only met Ed a few times, but he was always very kind to me, despite the criticisms I’d made of his readings of those thinkers.
We first met at a Foucault conference in Dublin, and when he realised who I was (I think I must have self-identified when asking a question), he almost literally grabbed me at the next break, we headed outside and talked for over an hour, missing the next session, while he smoked furiously.
We met again at the 2007 San Francisco AAG, when Derek Gregory organised some sessions on his work. I talked about ‘The Political Organisation of Space’, his very interesting 1971 AAG report on territory and territoriality. Some of my ideas on territory that I developed over the next several years stem from my critically appreciative reading of this piece of his work. As I say in The Birth of Territory “it remains one of the best single pieces written about territory”.
I was at UCLA for a quarter in 2007, teaching in the Geography department, so I got to see Ed a few times, and saw him present on what became Seeking Spatial Justice. I remember one long lunch with him, and Neil Brenner, Jing Tsu and I had a lovely evening with him at his home and a local restaurant in Mar Vista.
The last time I saw him was at an AAG in Washington, DC, the year I won the Globe book award for Terror and Territory. Ed was with Allen Scott, and they both congratulated me, Ed almost crushing me with a bear-hug.
I thought of him the other day, when I heard he’d been awarded the Vautrin Lud prize (sometimes colloquially known as Geography’s Nobel). I really wish I’d made the effort to contact him to congratulate him – I was thinking I’d do it at the time of the ceremony. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.