Tributes and Memories

Tributes to Professor John Urry.


186 thoughts on “Tributes and Memories

  1. John was my mentor when I did a one-year postdoc at Lancaster a few years ago. He was a wonderfully kind man, modest and inspiring.
    Thank you John for all you have done for sociology and for your fight against social injustice.
    We will miss you.

  2. My chance to get to know John was all too brief, so I was just discovering this person who was generous, energetic and supportive of colleagues; who made opportunities, embraced ideas and helped them to grow. A few years ago when I was researching sociologists’ careers for my PhD, John let me try out my interview on him. The last time we spoke we were talking about that. And about Lancaster Sociology pre-email, when colleagues would emerge from their offices at lunchtime and have lunch, a conversation, (and maybe a pint), as a regular thing. We planned to make the time for these informal chats, and I’m very sorry that I have missed the chance. But here’s to all the very many inspiring conversations that John was part of.

  3. A truly inspirational sociologist and so highly regarded. I first encountered John’s work early in my academic career by reading Sociology beyond societies: Mobilities for the twenty-first century – I was then hooked on reading more of his work. Over the past few months and following my return to Lancaster University last year, I have had the good fortune of getting to know John in person, rather than just through his work. In person, I found John a man of considerable wit and his wry humour brightened up many otherwise rather dull administrative meetings. Such an influential scholar – John will be greatly missed by all, a huge loss to his family, our Department and the global social science community.

  4. This is so sad, my thoughts are with his family and friends. John was my PhD supervisor and, throughout my drifting in and out of academic life, his warmth, generosity and intellectual breadth were some of the few constants I could depend on. I learned a lot from him and for that I will be forever grateful. I still remember attending, almost twenty years ago, the party celebrating the ‘100 years of Lash and Urry’ at the Ashton Memorial. It was the first time that my eldest son, then in the first year of his life, was left with a baby-sitter. Fast forward fifteen or so years and that same boy was playing tennis with John regularly at a local tennis club. Memories like these, as well as his intellectual legacy, will stay with me until the last day.

  5. It is hard to believe that I will not catch sight of John Urry popping into the post-room, chatting with students and colleagues in the corridor, or working at his desk in his north facing office (chosen by him for the best light conditions for reading and writing!). As so many people have mentioned, John was incredibly engaging and generous with his ideas and his vast experience. His recent work on climate change and the changing dynamics of capitalism, carbon societies and control will remain on my course reading lists and, in future, I will explain to students that I feel lucky enough to have known the author. I have asked John for help and advice on several occasions regarding research and other aspects of departmental life. He was unfailingly generous, willing to help, clear-sighted, supportive and fun as a colleague. I will miss him in very many ways.

  6. I am extremely sad to hear of John’s passing. I first met John when he invited me, out of the blue, to a week long retreat in a chateau in Normandy on the theme of mobility. I had not realised that that there was a mobility turn in the air so was blissfully unaware of the range of work that was about the emerge across disciplines. I think he has sent a “spy” from CeMoRe to a mobilities symposium I put together deep in the Welsh countryside at Gregynog. It was lovely to meet such a well informed yet humble scholar who truly enabled those around him to fine their own voices and agendas. I met him many times after that at mobility meetings around the world…we spent a lot of time in airports and, on two occasions, flew back to the UK together. I generally had a very long reading list by the end of the flight. He was also kind enough to act as external examiner to of my Ph.D. students … a service some people say no to as they become increasingly busy. He excelled in this role too. There have been few people who have has such a sustained influence on my own work from the work on society and space in the 1980s up through the Tourist Gaze and on to the mobilities turn and recent work on post carbon societies. He had the kind of encompassing mind and generosity that every discipline needs in order to engage in inter and trans-disciplinarily. I will miss his presence in the world.

  7. What desperately sad news. John was a remarkable sociologist and transdisciplinary theorist and an inspiration for so many people. RIP and my condolences to all his family, friends, colleagues, students.

  8. he moved,
    he moved people,
    he moved for people,
    he moved the world on.

    – with thanks to John for his commitment to the shared and communal endeavor of scholarship; and for gifting me with that wonderful writing technique he called ‘the Urry wash’ with which he soaked our joint work.

  9. As a young academic at Lancaster pursuing what many would consider outlier research interests relating to mobile games and social networks I was thrilled when John not only took an interest in my work but invited me to join the mobilities centre. Over the years since I have enjoyed numerous engaging conversations on a wide variety of topics with one of the most thoughtful and generous scholars I have met. As a professor now myself I hope I can be as generous and supportive to junior colleagues as John was to me and I shall miss his warm smile and inquisitive questioning tremendously.

  10. Karenza Moore, Katy Thomas, Rachel Verrall and I all work together on undergraduate admissions in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster. When it came each year to ask colleagues to put down a time when they could help out on the University Open Day in the summer, John’s name would almost always appear on the Doodle poll. Given his immense stature (no pun intended) in the field of sociology, who was in such demand for his time, the fact that he was willing to give some of that time to speak to young people about studying sociology at university, always left a big impression on us. He would turn up and start chatting to parents and prospective applicants about the Department, about why studying sociology was the thing to do. His participation in such events attested to his collegiality and his willingness to stay connected to different aspects of departmental life. He also volunteered to interview undergraduate applicants this year, commenting afterwards on how much he enjoyed the experience of speaking to these young people about their ideas. While many tributes to John will, quite rightly, recall his massive contributions to research and teaching in sociology, we also want to remember him for these small things as well. They made such a difference.

  11. A visionary thinker and good guy I enjoyed the company of during the AIM programme some years back. Condolences to family and friends but his work will continue to be used.

  12. I once had arranged to meet John Urry, and he not knowing that I knew what he looked like since I had heard him speak, said for me to look out for someone quite tall. When he finally arrived at the café on Lancaster campus, I told him I had actually found it quite difficult to spot him since there seemed to be a lot of tall people about. He replied instantly, ‘Yes, it must be the effect of the NHS! On another occasion I was having breakfast with him in New York since we were both delegates at the ASA conference. I think he had agreed to meet me for breakfast since we had managed to communicate via the conference email system, and hence I qualified as a member of the global-mobile society. He was as usual very generous with his time and with his ideas, and seemed intrigued by my idea of doing a book on how biblical ideas move across time and space: he especially liked the proposed title, The Bible Moves in Mysterious ways. I think it was on the strength of this conversation (or one like it) that I found my name among those thanked in the preface of the Mobilities book. During that breakfast Krishan Kumar happened to pass by, and John was very pleased to hail him down, without once letting me feel that he wanted to speak to Krishan more than I. John had that way of making you feel special when you were not. For those memories, and many other kindnesses- not least, his not thinking I was alien to sociology even though I moved in and out of the discipline (though staying in Cumbria) with forays into social scientific Biblical Studies- I will miss him a great deal. He lives on in his books and our memories. Sincere condolences to all who knew him and benefitted from his wisdom (of which there are so many) and especially to his family.

  13. A truly inspirational man. John taught me on the MA in Contemporary Sociology in 1990 and continued to take an interest in my PhD research some years later. He gave me shrewd publishing advice when I wrote my first monograph, and I am eternally indebted to him. Rest in peace John. You will be missed.

  14. John was a truly wonderful man. He was incredibly inspiring and supportive of me during my time as a PhD student, eventually becoming my internal examiner. The last time I saw him he was presenting a paper at a workshop where my newly walking 14 month old son was pootling round the room and competing with him for attention – I was acutely conscious of the distraction that this might have been causing but John dealt with it all with his characteristic kindness and humour. He will indeed be very sadly missed.

  15. When I went to Cardiff in 1979, I was pencilled in to teach a course in scientific method to town planners, and the book (with Russell Keat) Social Theory as Science was a wonderful text to guide what needed to be taught. I did not know John but Phil Cooke and Gareth Rees who did, invited him down to Cardiff to give what was an inspired seminar in the early 1980s. I only saw him once again quite recently but by then our paths had sort of crossed again, first with his work on complexity, and then in his work on mobility. This opened our eyes to deeper concepts in the organisation of transport research than we have ever had before. His insights will be sorely missed.

  16. My supervisor and mentor John Urry has passed away unexpectedly. John, both as a scholar and as a person, never ceased to inspire me. His ambition, breadth and depth of knowledge, and the prescience and unmatched ability for concision that defined his work, made John one of the world’s most respected social theorists. John was an academic traveller in the sheer diversity of topics he covered, and in his openness to new research areas and agendas. In the sociology department at Lancaster, John acted as a bridge linking the departments’ wide ranging research agendas, providing cohesion in what might otherwise be a fragmented research landscape. Despite John’s status as one of the ‘greats’ of Anglophone social theory, I, like pretty much everyone else who came into contact with him, was struck by his humbleness and just how down-to-earth he was. One always felt comfortable in John’s presence, despite the professional gulf that separated him from most around him. Indeed I don’t think it ever would‘ve crossed John’s mind that his fame and reputation would ever divide him from, or have any relevant bearing on how he approached and interacted with others around him. John was noted for his humour, which could at times be black, but was never cruel; he never made fun of anyone nor made anyone the butt of the joke. This style of humour is all too rare and will be missed all the more. That the announcement of John’s death coincides with attacks on the transportation infrastructure of a major European city gestures to the relevance of his work, who more than any other sociologist, worked to draw attention to the role of mass movement in social and political life. John’s bridge-building scholarship and openness and generosity as a person serves as an inspiration in a world of divisions, hatreds, expulsions and retrenchments. And John Urry will continue to inspire for a long time to come.

  17. Dear Pennie, Dear all, I am really sad. Professor Urry, who I met when I was studying in England as a Brazilian PhD visiting student, was, is and will be a strong inspiration. Last weekend I read, again, some pages from After the car. I will keep celebrating his ideas and creative analysis.I am sure we all will. Rest in Peace, Professor Urry. Thank you for your legacy. My thoughts are with family and friends from all over the world.

  18. I have worked alongside John for 17 years at Lancaster. He was my mentor when I was appointed as a lecturer in 1998 and he has been the warmest, kindest and most encouraging colleague. His death will leave a gaping hole in the Sociology Department; it is impossible to imagine our staff meetings, postgraduate conferences and research events without his smiling presence. John told me that he never intended to retire as he had too much to do. A champion of civic freedom, environmental and social justice issues, John was an anti-elitist in an age increasingly dominated by global elites (the ‘offshore class’ as he called them). He was a public sociologist, he loved twitter and he used this and other platforms to express criticism of the corrosion of democratic accountability and the erosion of the welfare state. These concerns were reflected in his recent work on inequalities, such as the global wealth gap, the concealment of wealth in tax havens (Offshoring), the inequality effects of climate change and ‘mobility-generated inequalities’. He understood that in order to confront climate change, rich societies urgently need to ‘power down’, but deepening economic inequalities make this almost impossible – therefore more equal societies are a fundamental requirement of post-oil, degrowth human futures. However, John was never a pessimist and one of his many legacies will be his enduring belief in the ability of technology, when harnessed to a sociological imagination, to tackle the most pressing social problems and bring about democratising forms of social change. I am going to miss his optimism most of all.

  19. I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear of John’s sudden death. There is little to add to how much John meant professionally to Sociology globally as well as at Lancaster. Except to say that his global reputation was matched by the deep affection in which he was held here at home beyond as well as within his Departmenr. For such a distinguished figure, John was unfailingly, approachable. humorous and affectionate. Continuously open to new ideas and to emerging social developments locally and globally, he was a constant source of encouragement to interdisciplinary research across the campus. I have special reason to remember him for that support. John was a lovely man, an intellectual inspiration and a loyal friend.

  20. I am so so sad. Though I hadn’t seen John for a few years, I was looking forward to meeting up again and enjoying the insights he would invariably share as well as his great sense of humour. I am immensely indebted to John for agreeing to supervise the final year of my PhD study. I had gained a scholarship at another university but had received no supervision and was unsure about the worth of my work. Thankfully, John agreed to supervise me and got me back on track, with much sage advice and support. He also helped me to get a contract with Routledge where I published my first book, Tourist at the Taj. Whether this would have happened without John’s support I greatly doubt. Thank you John. A fantastic academic, a humble soul and a man who wore his intellectual prowess lightly. We will all miss him.

  21. As a research associate in Sociology I was offered the opportunity to co-convene a Global Mobilities course with John, who later became my teaching mentor. As a novice to both teaching and mobilities, I was both nervous and privileged to be facing this challenge alongside such a distinguished professor. As it transpired the privilege was real and the nerves unfounded. John’s generosity of spirit, his egalitarian approach to collaboration and encouragement made this a teaching experience yet to be beaten. During this time, and many since, I had the opportunity to witness John’s patience and interest in hearing from any one, regardless of standing or experience. It is a kindness one can only aspire to emulate and one that will be deeply missed.

  22. John hauled me out of PhD misery, boosted my confidence, and toasted my success. I was lucky enough to continue working with him on the ‘Travel Time Use’ collaboration for a further 3 years, where he helped us to shape our mobile methods and innovative thinking. John was one of those people who enabled others to develop and grow. At Lancaster he introduced me to the concept of Kairos. So may be the time was ‘right’ for him to move into another time-space dimension, but he will be missed in this one!

  23. John’s work was instrumental and inspirational for my work with colleagues on tourism discourse. We met a few times at various events in Lancaster and Cardiff. He generously contributed a chapter to one of my edited books. I had a privilege of introducing John before his plenary lecture at the The Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos Conference at the University of Hong Kong on 10 March 2016. It was hard for me to keep the introduction brief while trying to do justice to all his achievements. Somehow, I restrained myself and left enough time for him to deliver a characteristically brilliant talk. After his plenary we had lunch at the Senior Common Room. I was seeking his advice on some of my current research ideas, which he shared with his usual generosity and patience, and he was telling me about his plans for future work, not least on the ‘future’, as part of his new Institute. Sad and shocking news. I had a few more questions for John, and I’m sure he had a lot more to say, to all of us.

  24. I was actually with John only last week in Hong Kong where we both did talks at a conference there on island cities. As ever, John was warm, supportive, engaging — and incredibly incisive. As ever, he was talking over breakfast about all his current and future work.

    I am dumbfounded to hear this sad news, especially so soon after losing Doreen Massey. John was always incredibly supportive of me personally and an inspiring and hugely influential
    model of how cutting-edge, interdisciplinary and yet accessible scholarship might work.

    RIP John

  25. I first met John shortly after arriving at Lancaster. Having only just finished my PhD it was with some trepidation that I presented my work at a Centre for Mobilities Research workshop. But I should not have worried. John’s reaction to my work, his enthusiasm, energy, and support was inspiring. This was typical of John – an intellectual giant, revered around the world, yet also a very special person who found the time and words to enthuse and embrace everyone he met. As others have noted, his legacy will live on through all of those people he encouraged and supported. Yet we will miss him greatly in Lancaster.

  26. John was a brilliant example for us all with his hunger for knowledge and his kindness as an academic. Meeting John meant for me not only opening the door to the emerging mobilities studies but also to a different way to be a scholar – picking up on insights across fields and areas and respecting clever achievements rather than titles. His many intellectual journeys flickered with humour, sympathy and an extreme academic appetite made us all want to move further and gain from the virtuosity radiating from his scholarship, tracing out multiple paths to knowledge. A sad day and a terrible loss – the stimulating inspiration will be missed but live on.

  27. These are sad days indeed for the social sciences. John Urry was a great friend to my discipline of Geography, someone whose work about mobility, space and time, climate change, tourism and the organisation of capitalism spoke directly to our concerns and interests, and helped to shape the broader geographical imagination beyond the formal limits of our discipline.

    I was looking through my first year lecture course last week for a revision class, reflecting on just how wide-ranging, significant and inspirational Doreen Massey’s work was on the way that we introduce and make sense of Geography for new students. Today I feel like I’ve lost another hero, whose work comes up in my teaching in so many places. From the tourist gaze to the mobilities paradigm and far beyond, John was a sociologist whose work was always accessible and deeply geographical, and showed to new students what critical, creative thinking should be like. I didn’t know John well – just through conferences, seminars and PhD examining, and there are many others who will have had much closer working relationships with him. But as the tributes here confirm, what always came across, as well as of course his intellectual energy, was his great generosity and kindness.

  28. I am shocked and saddened to hear the news of John’s much too early death. I have known him since our early days at Lancaster, in a fraternal capacity in the ASTMS union (where we branded ‘the management’ with the name which they now proudly bear), and in an academic capacity in the Centre for the Study of Cultural Values which was my first real experience of Lancaster’s fine tradition of interdisciplinary social science in which John has played such a central and seminal part. Our paths have crossed on many occasions and in various fora ever since, and I have always found him deeply knowledgeable, creative and imaginative in his thinking, with a friendly, open and welcoming disposition towards people and towards discussion. I shall miss him a lot. We are privileged to have had such an excellent scholar and colleague amongst us.

  29. John interviewed me for my first job at Lancaster in 1998, it was a research post in the Management School. He noticed in my CV that I’d worked as an assistant in Foyles Bookshop in Charing Cross Road, London a few years before and told us in the interview that he’d also done the same thing. Years later, in fact only two weeks ago we were interviewing prospective undergraduate students together and this came up again. John said that his experience of seeing the notorious working practices in Foyles had turned him away from his belief (as a very young man) in the Market. We shared again the kinds of stories that only Foyles workers can. We really enjoyed our time interviewing the students – he said he hadn’t enjoyed an afternoon so much for a long time, so that’s a great last memory for me.

  30. This very sad news. John was an important long-standing figure in British Sociology, encouraging others to study and join the discipline, supporting new developments and always pursuing new directions in his own work. He was also a humble person, who when you met him at a conference or seminar, was much more likely to ask after your own research than to hold forth on his own ideas and accomplishments, which were many. My condolences to his colleagues and family.

  31. Although working in a different department to John, he has (along with Ruth Wodak )) been the colleague most supportive of my career at Lancaster and — like so many of generations of scholars who will leave their tributes here — I have found him truly inspirational precisely because of this generosity as well as his extraordinary academic leadership and vision. In recent times I’ve been delighted to work with him and the CeMoRe team more closely, and my appointment as CeMoRe ‘Director for the Humanities’ last summer was typical of John’s desire to keep reaching out to new communities of scholars across and continue to promote the spirit of interdisciplinarity on which Lancaster (and FASS in particular) has been built. Mixed with my personal sense of loss (and, of course, heartfelt condolence for his immediate family) I feel terribly sorry for all the postgraduates and early-career scholars who have come to Lancaster to work with John in recent times and for whom this will be a terrible shock. It will take all of us some time to come to terms with the absence of someone who has long been the point of reference for so many new ventures, but we owe it to John to him to support each other as best we can and ensure that his legacy survives.

  32. I was an undergraduate student in sociology from 1969-1972 and was incredibly fortunate to be taught by John. An amazingly unassuming man for one with so much talent and generosity. Truly inspirational.A genuine loss to the academic community only more so for his close family.

  33. My principal contact with John was of course when he became Dean of Research in time for the first RAE exercise after Lancaster had scaled the dizzy heights of a top ten research institution. Expectations were high, but at the same time the university was entering a difficult period for finance and reputation. John was ideal in this situation: firmly focused on the core business and allowing of no distraction; taking the broad institutional view while being ready to sort out all the many points of detail; embracing the diversity of the whole institution and ensuring no area was overlooked; and remaining equable and good humoured through all the stresses that such an exercise places on academic and professional staff. Under his guidance, Lancaster optimised its position and retained its highflying position. I was therefore delighted when I knew he would co-direct the new institute with Linda Woodhead and my hope is that this will flourish and become a lasting testament to his work as an originator and inspirer.

  34. John Urry is among the most important sociologists in the UK in the past 40 years. I particularly liked his work on space and time. I didn’t know him personally but I have very good memories of seminars with him while doing my phd in Lancaster in the 80s, also with Scott Lash and Norman Fairclough, who was my phd supervisor. Please accept my condolences.

  35. Inspirational, caring, enthusiastic, collaborator, thought provoking, generous, warm-hearted ….. words cannot describe the huge gap, this wonderful man will leave in our lives personally and professionally. I will miss this tall figure joining our research group meetings, his lovely smile, his insightful comments, and his collegiality to everyone. x

  36. What sad news. John’s intellectual generosity was reflected in his geniality and wit. He was a great inspiration, and his work will remain a source for experimentation, exploration and thought. My deepest condolences to all at CeMoRe, Lancaster Sociology and undoubtedly far beyond.

  37. I’m very sorry to hear this news, and send my condolences to John’s colleagues and students at Lancaster University and in CEMORE. His work has been incredibly influential on my work, and the few times I’ve had the privilege of spending time with him in person at conferences and at Lancaster were incredibly rewarding, and provided a great deal of insight into how to do intellectual work. I deeply admire how gracious and generous with his time he was with students and emerging scholars, while also being remarkably intellectually prolific and insightful. His presence and voice in our intellectual communities will be deeply missed.

  38. I am deeply saddened to hear of John Urry’s death. We actually overlapped at school in London, though I hardly knew him there, and he was already a leading intellectual light at Lancaster when I was appointed in 1978. He was inspirational in my first area of research there in the Lancaster Regionalism Group and he never failed to show a courteous interest in my subsequent meanderings. He was a towering figure in every sense, in command of all the latest developments, ever curious and original, read everything and, it sometimes seemed, wrote just about everything. It seems impossible that on top of all that he was about the nicest person you could possibly encounter, with absolutely no ‘side’, and always generous and supportive towards those who couldn’t quite match his standards, which was just about everybody. He is completely irreplaceable.

  39. John was my PhD supervisor for the last few years of my PhD. From that time and after, he has always been a supportive and influential mentor and colleague. I wouldn’t be where I am without his kindness and dedication to his students. His intellectual ambition and creativity were always an inspiration, and a lesson to us all to continue to push into new areas of research to make the world a better place.

  40. John gave so many of us the spark of curiosity that led to our interest in mobility studies. He had a unique way of synthesizing diverse fields and starting new conversations. His modest brilliance opened up new avenues of thought and new insights, without insisting on any school of theory or disciplinary limits. Through his kind encouragement and searching questions he helped so many students grow into better scholars, and set sail to so many new careers. We will miss him deeply as a caring teacher, a collaborator, a colleague and friend. Having recently celebrated the first decade of the journal Mobilities, John and I just finished a new article to launch the journal Applied Mobilities, reflecting on the ten years since we first wrote about the “new mobilities paradigm” and all that had come into being since then. His deeply historically-informed perspective on mobilities has advanced new agendas across a whole array of diverse fields, where its impact is still rippling outwards. He made equal impacts in many other areas, from his early work on spatial theory and tourism studies, to his recent interests in climate change, complexity, and social futures. I have been reading his work for more than twenty years, and was lucky enough to be able to share in its production at certain points, and always awaited the next prolific publication with the greatest anticipation. Now that seam of productivity comes to a kind of an end, but not the energy that it contains and the many sparks that will continue to fly off of it.

  41. I last saw John about a month ago when we sat together at a small gathering to discuss the new Health Innovation Campus. As ever, he was engaging and engaged, inquisitive, and thought-provoking. Imbued with a deep geographical, as well as sociological, imagination he influenced generations of human geographers as well as social scientists across the world. His work prompted me to look at the relations between health research and complexity theory and in particular at the intersections of mobilities and health. Twenty-five years ago he was an inspiring and supportive Dean of Research and then Dean of Social Sciences. His influence on social science at Lancaster has been immeasurable and he was a Distinguished Professor long before the University created the title. Creative, innovative and always stimulating company, he was above all a generous, warm-hearted and hugely likeable human being. I am privileged to have counted him a wonderful colleague and friend.

  42. John was my supervisor in Lancaster as visiting PhD. Every time I had the chance to talk with him he opened-up my mind to new and unexpected reflections, challenging my work and pushing my thoughts to new directions! I have learned so much from him as professor and as a man. He will be greatly missed as professor and most of all as man

  43. More sad news on a very sad day like this. I met John a couple of times. Very inspirational. He will be missed… My condolences to his relatives, friends and colleagues…

  44. There are very many clever people in the industry (of academia) but few are genuine, generous, grounded (and tolerant of artists). I first met John when I shared my work at a CeMoRe meeting in 2010 or so; it was hard to believe that the groundbreaking giant was the way he was – unassuming, unaffected, smiling. I suspect that there will be fewer and fewer like him.

  45. I have known and admired John for many years, so when, in 2013, I began to think about a return to university life, I knew he’d be the right person to speak to. I was hesitant; he was characteristically enthusiastic. With his unstinting support, we got planning. The result was a collaborative research project which, like so much of John’s work, is a creative blend of theory and activism. In our many discussions since then, John wore his immense intellect and experience lightly. He was constantly curious and questioning, interested to know how the world looked from my perspective, and bubbling with suggestions, ideas and connections. He was never a pushover; he made me work hard and think hard, and was quick to challenge, which made our collaboration all the more rewarding. I’m so pleased to have benefited from his insight, support and friendship, and am more devastated than I can say to lose him. John’s last words to me, on email last week when he couldn’t make it in for our meeting, say it all: “ this bloody materiality”.

  46. At a recent meeting, when it was his turn at a whiteboard where we were drawing our research, John didn’t know what to draw (not keen on postits!). It was funny, and ended with him drawing a frame around everything – a perfect capture of his most extraordinary skill as a map-maker, charting the world with clarity, conceptual creativity, foresight, and moral momentum. His public sociology of futures, the social, the mobile/immobile, and the complex provides the best footing I know for affirmative critique, for putting the map to use to make a better world, in interdisciplinary and collectively engaging, experimental ways. John made my sociological life complex, mobile and future shaping. He changed my world.

  47. John was my PhD supervisor, mentor, and friend. He was what every doctoral student dreams of from a supervisor: caring, attentive, and endlessly hungry for insight from his students. He was always learning, always evolving, never one to put you down. His critique made your work stronger. He expected a lot from you, but always accepted if you wanted to take a different road – as long as you had a great argument for doing so. He always supported me in my two strange roles – as a musician and a scholar. I will never forget about how told me he played my album on repeat at the dinner table. You will be greatly, greatly missed, dearest John.

  48. I have seldom met anyone who combined such knowledge, achievement and recognition on the one hand, and such generosity of spirit, sheer kindliness, and sweetness of temper as John did. His was a thoroughly democratic intellect, always willing to engage with a smile and an insight with any of us. His self-deprecating wisdom helped so many people, in disciplines often far removed from his; mind, his own, charmingly restrained vision was thoroughly disciplinary+ (whatever one wished to call it)!

    Looking at the photo, it is impossible to believe I won’t see his tall and smiling figure at some gathering, or along the spine, with a greeting or quip. Lancaster’s academic community and the field will miss this most distinguished of professors a great deal. But even more will this wonderful man be missed by so many.

  49. John and I were research students together in Cambridge in 1967-1970. We shared many intellectual discussions, one-to-one and in the context of the King’s College Seminar series on Revolutions in the Twentieth Century, as well as two supervisors, David Lockwood and Philip Abrams. John introduced me to the work of Louis Althusser, changing my understanding of Marxism and my approach to political economy — perhaps one of the earliest examples of his career-shaping interventions! We have tracked each other’s intellectual developments ever since, sometimes converging (e.g., critical realism, the complexity turn), sometimes productively diverging. We became colleagues in 1990, when I moved from Essex to Lancaster. John helped launch the Institute for Advanced Studies, another example of his contribution to institution-building, and was always a fascinating interlocutor and inspirational colleague. He is already sorely missed and the gap will only become greater.

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