Gordon MacLeod, Durham University
Neil Smith was held in special regard by a range of communities: activist, political, scholarly, and student, as well through his numerous wide-ranging friendships. As the news broke about his passing on 29th September 2012, a sequence of warmly generous and heartfelt postings and tributes quickly appeared on the CUNY websites. It was notable how their connective tissue often ranged from local neighborhoods such as Harlem to ones that stretched globally to Asia and Latin America. Indeed in a poignant way they mirrored his own warm embrace and reflected how his open geographical sensibility tallied with an acute appreciation of spatial scale. It was a glimpse into how Neil meant so much for so many of us. Our collective sense of wretched disbelief was matched only by one of terrible loss and sorrow. But amid the grief, many also felt able to recognize the extraordinary contribution of a courageous and unique scholar-activist. In this brief tribute, I discuss Neil’s contribution to critical urban geographical inquiry. It will inevitably be shaped by my own awestruck encounters with Neil and his pioneering work. But I write it quietly confident that I am one of many across the world whose own humble endeavors to research the inconstant landscapes of uneven urban development, the politics of land-use and gentrification, and the rise of a revanchist political climate throughout metropolitan regions have been inspired by Neil’s brilliant writings and exhilarating conference presentations.
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