Tributes to Professor John Urry.
It’s very moving to read these tributes and to get a sense of the personal side of the international networks in which John moved. My main experience of him was as a departmental colleague. He was on my interview panel in 2003, asking me what I thought were the three most important issues for sociology today. Big question, but very kindly asked! Over the years we did some admin tasks together. I came close to enjoying working on a departmental review with John because of his critical yet light-touch and humorous approach. It was great when John could come to staff meetings – his endlessly positive attitude to our department and his willingness to resist bureaucratic demands were always heartening. Master of the direct, haiku-style email, he answered any written query quickly and precisely – one never needed to guess what he thought. In all of that I very much appreciated his honesty and clarity.
As many of these testimonies affirm, John consistently supported younger colleagues to believe in their capacity to get on and do what they wanted to do well, even if their work was very different to his. He gave me precise and detailed support at a difficult point in my career, and at another important juncture, accepted my resistance to doing more than I wanted to. In short, he helped colleagues to be who they wanted to be, seemingly enjoying, and always supporting and promoting, our diversity. One couldn’t wish for more than that in a senior colleague!
We’ll all miss John’s laughter, his enthusiasm, his kindness, and his iconic short trousers. It’s very hard to accept this loss, but his ideas, approaches and spirit will doubtless continue to shape our work for a long time to come.
Days after the initial shock, I still feel a huge sense of loss and sadness. Although we were fairly close neighbours in Cartmel College I really only got to know John when he became the first Dean of Social Science and I became, briefly, Associate Dean for Research and then a HoD. I wish now that I’d managed to tell him how much I learned from his gentle but firm performance of the Dean’s role. He was wonderfully sharp and never missed a trick, but his style – inclusive, respectful, direct, non-confrontational, and full of laughs – was admirable, and enviable. Like other people I was always in awe of him intellectually – how could you not be? – but he was always warm, supportive and interested in whatever I had to tell him, and kindness itself. Lancaster owes him a huge debt: he shaped the University in so many ways. Simply the continued presence, and loyalty, of this hugely distinguished figure was a constant tribute to the qualities of the University. A generous and truly lovely man.
One of my, and indeed many of our, academic heroes. I feel immense gratitude and respect for John Urry.
Perhaps his soul is now on the move; his mind-spirit will definitely continue to move us.
John was my first ‘boss’ as a ‘proper academic’, that is to say he was my Professor on a post-doc. From the first it was clear that his approach to this was as an interested, listening, patient and humorous collaborator! This in itself was a shock – he was the friendliest and most unassuming Professor I had ever met, and one who took my politics and convictions about the environment and social justice seriously from the word go. Such openness, warmth and friendliness is rare enough in life, never mind the academy! He was encouraging and supportive in reviewing every piece of writing I sent to him from then on, reassuring me that what I was producing was interesting and worthy of pursuing, and never once failed to say hello with a beaming smile wherever we met, from the Spine of campus to an international conference. His commitment to the pursuit of equality and sustainability within the sometimes hostile environment of academia, and his support of all other colleagues no matter what status, are memorable. I think it will take a while to process the loss.
In our crazy neoliberal university world John was one of the good ones. He was curious, committed, supportive and brilliant. He had a unique sense of humor and self-irony that meant laughing out loud having to use your abdominal muscles. I am going to miss this so much. John has without a doubt been essential to the development of the mobilities paradigm through his brilliant thinking and writing, but his social intelligence is what contributed to a community of respect and curiosity and to me this is what science is really about. I will miss him.
I was and am very sad to think about John Urry’s sudden death. I met John at CeMoRe in 2015 and he was so open, generous, kind, welcoming, and hosted me with others so well. I know how much everyone will be feeling a great sense of loss and sadness. I was in contact with John a few times in recent weeks and it was such a shock to hear the news. John’s work has made me think about my scholarship very differently. It illuminated for me the way mobility can be used as a way of seeing the world – and it has sparked a new scholarly adventure for me. Most of all I welcomed John’s ability to connect people with each other in a very warm, human and mobile practice and community of scholarship. I will miss knowing he’s there, and my thoughts are with all of you at CeMoRe and Lancaster, especially his colleagues and family.
It was with great sadness I learned about John’s passing on March 18. John was not only an iminent academic scholar. He was also an extraordinary person with a strong and positive engagement in his fellow academics – junior as senior. John’s work in CeMoRe was our key source of inspiration for the creation of the C-MUS Center at Aalborg University. John has been a long-standing friend of C-MUS and endorsed our center on many occations. Many scholars from C-MUS has over the years visited CeMoRe and always profited by John’s universal hospitality. On a more personal note, I had the great fortune to collaborate with John on several occasions and he was very supportive of my work during all the years. Indeed, I owe him a great deal for inspiring me on a general level, as well as for personal encuragement. I greatly regret the loss of an academic gigant, and a warm person whose support I will warmly remember.
R.I.P. John Urry.
I only knew John for an all too short six months, but in that time, as he got the Institute for Social Futures up and running, watched as his intellectual energy and enthusiasm worked its effect on those around him, including me. I was so looking forward to more of this and feel terribly sad that it can not be. It is immensely moving reading the comments and reflections from those who knew John much better than I did, or now ever can. An utterly devastating loss for us all.
I was deeply affected by these sad news. I discovered John at a Cerisy seminar, in the early 2000s, at a time when i was developing an interest in mobile communication technologies. With his trademark bread of vision, humour and sociological acumen, he argued forcefully there for the mobility turn in front of an audience of french geographers and sociologists for which this was completely new, convincing me and many others to reframe some of our research questions in terms of the mobility paradigm. I will cherish the memories of the characteristic blend of scientific acumen, humour, generosity and progressive views which he brought to all our encounters thereafter, and I miss him dearly
It is difficult to find words to express how shocked and deeply saddened I was with John’s early passing. I have worked with John for the past two years on a research project on climate change that he led with so much enthusiasm and interest. One of his ‘obsessions’, he would say.
Being a linguist by background, I was not familiar with his work when we first started this project but it did not take long for me to be happily immersed in his books and develop full of admiration for his work. John opened up my horizons and has changed the way I see society and language. Genuinely modest, he was always kind, supportive, full of ideas and insightful comments that made me think and work hard. I have learned so much from him.
I feel very much privileged to have had the chance to work with such a brilliant mind. John was a very special person and will be greatly missed.
In intellectual terms, John was among the most gifted anyone could meet not simply in Lancaster but anywhere in the world. He was also among the most thoughtful, kindest, and most humble persons. It was an enormous privilege to know him.
Like many many others I owe John beyond measure for the political comradeship and academic inspiration he offered so generously. When I first joined Lancaster in 1988 to help set up the new Centre for Health Research he gave me a foothold in Sociology, and encouraged our cross-departmental efforts to create a platform for the ‘social model of health’, as well as to connect up with debates about complexity and causation in science. In 2004 he welcomed me into CeMoRe, invited me to pursue my wayward studies of ‘metaphors of movement’ in social action for mental health, and showed benign tolerance of my affection for new ontological choreographies, poetic patchworks and similar would-be creative excursions into counter-disciplinarian flux. In 2015 he gave me a toehold in ISF as an Associate, and when I offered a thought about what I might take a special interest in, said (with an impish hint at a groan) ‘oh don’t worry, we’d expect you to roam far and wide’. In the past few months he’s been both sympathetic and astute in responding to proposals to balance the local and the global, and activism alongside theoretical modelling in ISF. One of the last things he said to me, a few weeks ago: I was telling him a little tale of woe about my own efforts to achieve a zero-carbon lifestyle, and out came the retort ‘ah Alan you see you’re carrying the Green Man’s Burden’. Brilliant, quick-as-a-flash, playful, affectionate and very very memorable. I’ve always liked Jerome Bruner’s characterisation of the chief requirement of a great teacher: the ability to establish instantaneous ‘intellectual intimacy’. John had that and he was an unforgettable and irreplaceable resource for Lancaster and the world.
The death of Professor John Urry makes all of us very sad. I’ve never directly known him, but I’ve known very well his thought and the power of his ideas. He has changed our mind, he has changed my mind about sociology and my research perspective and I’m so grateful to him for this intellectual guide.
His death is a great and unbridgeable loss, but he also leaves us an immense heritage. He will remain in our living memory forever.
Be immortal Professor John Urry!
I last saw John some five years ago as I was emerging from the Northern Line at Euston Station while he was on the down escalator. We waved and laughed but now I very much regret not getting on the down escalator to have a chat, however brief. It is not really necessary to speak about his academic accomplishments; they are evident enough in what he achieved. It is good he had the recognition in his lifetime. What is most important is what a good and kind man he was, ever so slightly diffident but with a wonderful laugh. I think back to the early 1970s at Lancaster and John was so much a part of the Lancaster “scene”. It is so sad that he did not have a longer life but he packed so much into the years he had. My deepest condolences to Sylvia and to his children.
This is sad news, I spent a couple of years at Lancaster with John as my co-supervisor and he always struck me as a warm but intellectually challenging guy. He was always open to a joke and it was a privilege to have his thoughts on my work. I never followed through with the PhD but I’ll always remember John’s enthusiasm and belief that I’d be able to pull something together. Sadly it wasn’t to be for me, but I’m sure many others benefitted from that encouragement and inspiration over the years.
John was chair of the Halton Lune Trust. The fellow Trustees will miss his calm and thoughtful way in which he conducted our proceedings. Our thoughts go out to all those who knew, worked and loved John.
I have known John since I came to the Psychology department in Lancaster as a new lecturer over 40 years ago. I was in awe of him then then – Lancaster sociologists were terrifyingly clever and psychology wasn’t one of their favourite subjects – and awe still seems a good word in relation to someone with such intellectual achievements, such charm, and such a willingness to be positive and supportive to a science dean or a college principal at Lancaster. My last two emails to him were about futures and sustainability, and migration, both in relation to college projects. He replied to both – helpfully and quickly, even from China. That was astonishing, but immensely cheering. The university will be less open and less interesting without him, and we will miss his smile.
Reading these responses to the shocking news of John Urry’s death, I feel, once again, a sense of people’s deeply felt warmth, affection and respect for him. When I arrived at the Sociology Department in Lancaster in 1989 he was such a welcoming Head of Department, making me feel I belonged there, even though my academic background was not an obvious one for the subject. During a very difficult year of illness for me in 1992, he and Nick Abercrombie negotiated with Lancaster University to extend my sick leave on full pay well beyond the required timeframe. And when I wrote a rather experimental and interdisciplinary book about cancer cultures, he amazed me by asking to include it in his International Library of Sociology series.
One of the leading intellectuals in his field to most genuinely welcome new and unusual work from the next generation, John showed no desire to reproduce younger versions of himself in academia; instead, he took immense pleasure in facilitating interdisciplinary innovation and supporting new ways of conceptualising a rapidly changing world. He once said to me that he had always ‘felt at home’ at Lancaster University and that’s why he’d never taken up the many invitations to move elsewhere. Feeling at home in your workplace is probably increasingly unusual, but John’s modest presence and warm encouragement enabled many colleagues to feel this sense of belonging at Lancaster. John’s slightly shy and quietly spoken ways of communicating made his sharp intellect and impressive breadth of knowledge less intimidating to new and younger scholars. Rigorous yet always supportive, incisive yet never adversarial, John’s presence at research events set a certain ethical tone that benefited all of us. I think it was in large part because of this that the Sociology Department at Lancaster has been known for so many years for its unusual culture of participation: informal, unassuming and collegial but always buzzing with interesting people who wanted to talk to each other and work together collaboratively. John embodied many of the values of the University’s original mission and ensured that, where possible, these have survived the pressures that we have all endured in the last few decades in higher education in the UK. In modelling how to keep doing meaningful and interesting work despite the stresses of university life today, John has given something vital to several generations of colleagues and friends.
And I have to finish this tribute with reference to John’s love of tennis and my memories of sharing this enthusiasm with him in our after-work matches on the court where I live in Dolphinholme on summers’ evenings in the 1990s (before my early evening time was redirected into parenting). Due to the court’s bumpy and mossy surface, John and I had to introduce the category of the ‘Dolphinholme bounce’, and, in the spirit of fair play, we would look at each when we missed one of these shots and nod to confirm we should play the point again. He almost always won the match and when, to his surprise, I beat him once or twice he tried to cover his irritation as politely as he could. When I was in hospital having chemotherapy he sent me a card saying he was looking forward to beating me at tennis again soon. And I remember thinking, ‘Yes, I am looking forward to that too’. Once I returned to work, booking a match with him was one of my priorities. John was indeed very widely loved and appreciated; he will be much missed.
How lucky the world has been to have had the genius of John Urry. As a mature student he inspired me, giving me the confidence to learn again. He helped me see the world in different ways, not only by introducing new theories and dimensions, but also by opening my own mind. He leaves us wiser for his being although sadder at his loss. His lives on in the work and personalities of people around the globe.
I have many fond memories of being under John’s supervision; he was always very laid back, and never imposed his view, yet somehow was able to influence and guide in the most positive ways. Over 20 years later, when stuck on some writing problem or other, I still find myself thinking ‘well, how would John approach it’? So sorry to hear of his untimely passing – and all condolences to his colleagues, family and friends.
I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting John for the first time on 10 March where he gave an inspiring keynote https://twitter.com/IlanKelman/status/707768613059465216 He then had the grace, kindness, and intelligence to respond thoughtfully to critiquing questions, with the discussions leading to several possibilities for following up with collaborations. So sorry that we will not have the opportunity to use his wisdom and insights in person.
It is a loss for all of us. My heart is with him and his family. God bless them.
Having consumed his books as an architecture student in the 1990s, it was only last year that I met and worked with John for the first time on the car free project here in Birmingham. His enthusiasm for, command of and insight into the research was inspiring both for me and my students, and we were thankful that we had that opportunity. It is clear that he has left a strong legacy at Lancaster through the Centre for Mobilty Research and the Instititute for Social Futures, but beyond his professional work I will remember him as a generous, warm and humourous man.
Knowing him changed me. Reading the 1st edition of The Tourist Gaze motivated my PhD proposal, pursuing the degree under his supervision led me deeply and happily into understanding mobile worlds, mobile machines (a term he suggested) and mobilities research (he never pressured me to!). He was always encouraging to me, but never failed to indicate where more work is needed. He showed me his eagerness to know more, insistence on the clarify of writing, pursuit of conceptual creativity, receptiveness to both the challenges and new ways to know and engage in mobile worlds and futures, genuine interests in the people in conversation with him and willingness to offer advice and opportunities to junior researchers like me. I am so, so grateful to him and he will continue to be inspiring.
I am writing from the University of Salento (Lecce). We have religiously bought every edition of “The Tourist Gaze” since 1990, and my MA and PhD students’ theses all bear his name, as do the publications of probably most Tourism scholars in Italy. This year’s Cultus Journal is dedicated to Tourism, and John was the natural choice for the interview with a key scholar in the field.
I go onto his site this morning looking for an email address for the invitation, and am as shocked and stunned as all those of you who knew him well. He will be sorely by all those scholars who never even had the chance to meet him.
Yesterday I received the sad, sad news about John Urry’s much too early passing. I have known him since the 1980s. We didn’t meet frequently, but every time he met me with his unforgettable warm, welcoming, good-humoured friendliness. There is one occasion I particularly remember. It was in November 2001. I had invited him to a seminar on ’Urbanity, the Public Sphere and Consumption’ at the Aarhus School of Architecture and he had lectured on ’Mobile Transformations of ’Public’ and ’Private’ Life’. In the evening he and I watched television at home with my wife Kathe and our colleague from Sweden, Mats Franzén. It was Election Day. Alas, the outcome was a shift in government from centre-left to centre-right. Kathe and I were not that disturbed; we thought that the overall welfare consensus in Denmark would somehow prevail. But John immediately understood that this was an important shift. How right he was: important rollbacks on environmental policies, downgrading of professional expertise and hitherto unseen toughness on immigrants were to come. He was an eminent sociologist with a just as eminent sense of politics and political change. His passing is a great, great loss for the international sociological community. He was a wonderful man that I am grateful for having known.
‘Just a space for us all to have lots of really interesting conversations’: that was how John diffidently described the Institute for Social Futures to a group of would-be affiliates at its very early inception. As a relatively early career academic who has been schooled in the dictates of grant capture and strategic alliances, I found myself wondering how someone so senior could seemingly be so naïve. Over the months that followed, I have been privileged to experience the sheer power of enthusiasm for good ideas that always emanated from John, as well as his ability to put the fruits of conversations immediately into practice in very concrete and meaningful ways. John combined old-school values of genuine intellectual exchange and enquiry with a visionary ability to think through what might be done differently as a result. This is an attitude that it falls to us all to champion in John’s name.
I recently received the sad news that John passed away. We first met in 1997 a pub in the Lake District during a PhD away day and as all his tributes attest he was happy to chat with a starting sociologist like me about the senses. I was lucky that he agreed to take over from Dede Boden to become my PhD supervisor and we stayed in touch ever since. It would be an understatement to say that John has re-shaped the field of sociology – not only in Britain but globally. His writings have challenged and advanced post-modern and contemporary sociology into new spheres. His work pushed the agenda forward and challenged how we view capitalism, nature, mobility, time, the senses, cars, tourism, to mention only a few topics he covered. In Germany your PhD supervisor is your ‘Doktor-Vater/Mutter’, meaning your PhD father/mother, and this is what John was to many of us: a generous, warm and supporting figure that guided and challenged our intellectual thinking and inquiries. He was also an immensely modest person and very funny. He attended my first PhD conference paper in 1999 and, to everyone’s amusement, Professor Urry was happy to keep working the light switch for me, as he said afterwards with a twinkle in his eyes: “That’s what supervisors are for!” Over the years, John taught me to follow my gut instincts about research ideas and topics, he pushed me to follow my inklings and to trust myself.
It is with immense sadness that I have to wish him well on this last journey and can only say: thank you – I will miss you John.
John was the first person to be personally nice to me when I arrived at Lancaster in 1999, he bought me a pint and we had a chat about tennis and books. Although I never formally studied with him, I learned much from his seminars and lectures and his way of being in the academic setting. His warm and convivial welcome made him stand out as a good man in a culture sometimes cold and competitive. May he rest in peace and his ideas live on and continue to grow far above and beyond.
When I first read The Tourist Gaze in Spain I didn’t know who John was. I didn’t know what Lancaster sociology was. I hardly even knew what sociology was. But I felt privileged to be accepted to study the MA on Tourism and Leisure and I arrived to Lancaster in autumn 1998, almost eighteen years ago. Since then I cannot think of any major step in my career in which John’s support has not been essential. The MA, the PhD, postdoctoral research, publications, funding applications and institutional support all benefitted from his generosity.
John would never allow his academic status to interfere in the way he treated others. Aware of the distance that his fame could create, he sought and appreciated honest feedback and was always available to offer advice.
In my time at Lancaster, through all seasons of life, John has been a constant. There is now an unbearable emptiness.
John was a good man. Clever, generous, reliable, hard working and encouraging. A model for us all.
It is unbelievable that John Urry passed away 18 March 2016, in all ways too early. He had so many promising projects, engagements and ideas, to continue set agendas for change and new practices in society and in academia, across disciplines. He was not only full of ideas, but also an entrepreneur capable of building paths and institutions to make things take place. John was himself an institution, never to be replaced, who supported and guided a multiplicity of academic carriers around the world.
John was a great inspiration and colleague as a visiting professor to Roskilde University, Denmark, 2000-2003 in the Performing Tourist Places research project with Jonas Larsen, Michael Haldrup and others, a fellowship so strong and with long lasting implications. He also became honorary doctor of Roskilde University and played – and will still play – a key role in mobility, urban, tourist and transport research around the MOSPUS group. A track originally opened through his, as always, positive and open-minded response to an e-mail suggesting him to become part of a research proposal. John’s way of being such a lovely man and his far-reaching academic capacity created tracks and carriers in research that would never have been the same without the touch of his mentorship. We are many with memories of doing workshops, visiting places, doing restaurants and beers, attending a Carl Nielsen concert – in Roskilde, Copenhagen, Lancaster, Iceland, around Tromsø in Norway, and in many more places. To me, his passing away leaves an empty feeling of all the advices, projects and trips around the Nordic countries, which we were going to do and will now miss for ever.
But he made so much change – and made so many move – that his impact will be irreversible and unpredictable in ways deeply consistent with his own philosophy. Therefore, we are so many around the world that will carry on researching the possibilities of the world, committed to his respectful, constructive and supportive way of being together while making a difference in making a better world
Hearing of John’s passing was shocking in many ways. he was simply part of the furniture, an ever-present in a sea of flux. He was my PhD supervisor, my Viva passed almost ten years to the day. We kept in touch from time to time, and after a period of ill health at the point of my submission, John seemed to quickly return to his old self. I’ve been around academia in one form or another since my time at Lancaster, and that has provided me with a fair amount of perspective (or comparable data!). There simply aren’t that many like John, who combined good humour, rigour, organisation, and fundamental decency. I think what is wonderful, looking through the comments here, is that even though he was so respected in his field, the person he was is as much, if not more of a legacy, than his outputs. His influence on others will surely live on, and like many others here I can say it was an honour to have known him.
John’s warmth, critical curiosity, and willingness to engage in openly collaborative research was a beacon of hope at a time when my former university was on the vanguard of marketisation. John would have been the first to agree that we are who we are thanks to meaningful others, and so my condolences, but also heartfelt thanks to John’s family and friends. May John’s example inspire professors in the UK and beyond
I first met John when we in the early 90s to discuss a potential PhD proposal and reconnected again when I returned to Lancaster as the new Dean last year. On both occasions John welcomed me with the same warmth, support and gentle humour which has continued during my time at Lancaster. His intellectual ability and contribution was of the highest order and his ability to speak truth to power with a wry smile and always with a collegial manner, set the bar and the tone for the outstanding academic culture he helped create at Lancaster. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten.
I had the good luck to join Lancaster Sociology in 1989 in no small part due to both John Urry’s and Sylvia Walby’s vision that the department would convert the Thatcherite emphasis on the enterprise culture into new inclusive opportunities for the discipline. Over time I learned this was one of John’s gifts and habits, to the benefit of us all, to bring in people from unexpected directions and to make this intellectual bravery definitive of British sociology This is an unusual, timely, political, and intellectually robust legacy we can all work to defend, protect, extend and celebrate as Urryism. Or in fact Urryology. An Urrytopia all of us who stand in his wake can inhabit the more confidently by benefit of John’s exceptionally generous and transformative vision of why the sociological imagination matters to everyone inside and outside the university. Long live the Urryversity. Thank you to a scholar who, despite his own shyness, never shied or shirked the labour of bringing people in, widening the definition of sociology, and believing in the power of critical thought to change the means by which society is reproduced.
I met John in 2002 or 2003 (let’s just say it was the early noughties) when I was interviewed for a job at Lancaster, and I still remember the surprisingly delightful experience of the interview. Not too many job interviews are intellectual engagements, alas. Yet John’s inquisitiveness, curiosity, kindness and wry smile, quickly dissipated my nerves and allowed me to be much more thoughtful in my answers, which I’m sure is why he was such an integral part of such things. The whole experience (and one or two incisive questions from John) was one which provoked me to reflect closely on my research and questions of disciplinarity for many years afterwards.
Reading through the other tributes here, I can see many patterns in his interactions with others that I can recognise, and the possibilities that he created for students and colleagues. While my own mobile life has meant that I didn’t know John for as long as others have, I can truly say that the atmosphere and environment at Lancaster which John and others helped build is a model for scholarly communities everywhere.
This is terribly sad news, and John’s passing will be felt personally by so many friends and colleagues, as well as many scholars who never had the fortune to meet him from across a large number of fields.
John has been a significant inspiration and provided help and encouragement throughout my career. I first met join in 2000 when he invited me to deliver a seminar in Lancaster. I was a third year human geography PhD student at the University of Nottingham who was amazed that this eminent professor was interested to hear what I had to say. He took great interest in my doctoral research on motorways and motorway driving in 1950s and 1960s Britain, and he went on to endorse my book on the subject. Since this time our paths have crossed so many times, in events at Lancaster, Aberystwyth and elsewhere, in putting together edited collections, in journal activities, and in examining PhD theses. He always had so much time for everyone and I don’t think I can recall him ever saying no to a request from me, whether to contribute to a conference, write an afterword, or write me a reference. I will miss him very much.
I don’t remember when I first met John, and I didn’t know him well, but for years, whenever I passed him on the spine, he greeted me cheerily, and we often exchanged pleasantries. I recall too enjoyable conversations with him and Sylvia at Bron Szerszynski’s parties. More recently, we served together on the Honorary Degrees Committee, and one of my tasks as Orator was to write and deliver an oration for Helga Nowotny, President of the European Research Council, whom John had nominated for an honorary degree. He couldn’t have been more helpful; we met for a coffee, he told me everything he knew of her, and gave me several useful leads. He read my draft, made some invaluable suggestions, and throughout was unfailingly supportive and encouraging. This small episode testified vividly to what so many others have said; he was the embodiment of Lancaster collegiality.
I learnt of John’s death with a mixture of disbelief shock and grief
I also joined the sociology department in the 1970s and became involved with John and Nick Abercrombie both in teaching and in running discussions groups in our homes. One such was a Marx reading group where John’s knowledge of economics put us to shame. I was somewhat critical of John’s work on mobilities and wrote my article on the enclave society in response. He like the response and generously invited me to contribute to the debate on mobilities. I later reconnected with John through the Hawke Institute in South Australia and enjoyed swimming locally with him. My last meeting with John was in New York where we both agreed that surveys were a waste of time and opinion data were psychology not sociology. A good friend and a great mind. I doubt British sociology will ever produce another Urry.
So sad to hear of Professor John Urry’s death. He was such an inspirational, innovative thinker. What struck me more than anything, and what I will remember most keenly is the way his whole persona lit up with enthusiasm whenever he spoke about his subject. It was a real privilege to be taught by him. It was also an honour to teach ‘Societies Beyond Oil’ to A level students this summer, and to see them begin to question the world around them and their previously held assumptions, and to begin to engage critically with sociological futures. It is this accessibility of his work which marked John out as an outstanding sociologist. Thank you for everything you taught me.
This is too sad and so unexpected… Too early we have lost such a wonderful person and extraordinary intellectual.
Along with sadness I feel gratefulness for having met him many times in Lancaster and at various international conferences, always being inspired by his books and ideas in my own path to mobility research… I had the luck to visit Cemore in 2007 and appreciate John’s advice, his sense of humour, brilliant ideas, open-mindedness and great humanity. Still remember his laughs and jokes during a dinner at an Italian restaurant in Lancaster, how easy and interesting was to talk to him during my stay at Cemore, and at a distance too. He was a kind, humble person as much as a pioneering scholar.
I felt so proud and happy when he wrote the foreword to my book ‘The Politics of Proximity’! It was Summer but he immediately and enthusiastically said ‘yes’.
All my sorrow and closeness to his family, colleagues and friends at Cemore and Lancaster Sociology.
He will be missed by all of us. Surely, his ideas and inspiration will be ‘always on the move’, and keep inspiring many for long ,across geographical and cultural boundaries.
May he rest in peace.
I cannot believe that I am writing this. During my BA studies in Turkey, I read his works in sociology courses. Later, I was lucky as he was my PhD supervisor. He was a humble and very approachable person, who never let me down during my research study. I feel very indebted to him for his ideas, expertise and incredible support during my PhD study and afterwards. Lastly, I visited him in the department in 2014. I feel very sad. I think the academia needs people like John.
I have worked for John for almost 25 years. Through each incarnation working life was certainly interesting, opened my eyes to topics outside my sphere and introduced me to such wonderful people. He was caring, kind, thoughtful and keenly interested in the goings-on in the Drinkall household. There is never a right time to leave, so much left undone. I will miss him like I miss my own father – every day.
It was only seeing his smiling face on the Lancaster Sociology webpage today that it truly sunk in that John is gone. I didn’t know him that well but we met a few times a year, and every time I did I was always so struck by his generosity, friendliness and humility. When we first met in 2007 I had had no contact with academia beyond my first degree, and had no idea of two things: first, that John was – and will remain – a legend and innovator in the field of sociology, and second, that not everyone of his stature is so incredibly nice or remotely interested in what someone outside their field has to offer or would like to find out.
I used to tell him that the annual CeMoRe research days were the highlight of my year, and I wasn’t joking! Those days were always so open, inclusive and above all incredibly interesting, and without doubt have fed into my work as I’ve started to find out more about sociology and mobilities. I hope they’ll continue in his name. I’m only now about to start a PhD, on public transport, and was hoping fervently he’d agree to be my examiner as I knew how forgiving he’d be about my (cough) unorthodox approach to writing and research. David Bowie, Doreen Massey, now John. Heroes all.
John Urry’s untimely demise is a great loss to the global community of scholars. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Lancaster University last year. He was a brilliant sociologist, a public intellectual, an innovative path maker and bridge builder. My condolences to his loved ones, his friends, colleagues, and students.
This is so terrible. I knew John since 2002 and his 2000 book was definitively a moment in my career as a scientist. At this time we worked on a project on mobility pioneers and while German sociology was almost hostile against a sociology of mobility as an ontology he immediately saw the potential in our approach. Coming from risk society theory his work was mostly intriguing and inspiring and helped me a lot to find my own position – and the scientific community in the end where I feel in good company. For the setting up of the Cosmobilities Network he played a tremendously important role. He was not only a great person, he also had the capacity to support younger academics and to make them flourish and grow. form many of us he was a highly esteemed colleague, friend and mentor. And the fact that John passed away last Friday is so incredibly sad. I am still shocked from this news. and I won’t forget him as one of the most supportive scientists I know, a highly dynamic person, agile and full of plans, projects and books for another 70 years of his lifespan.
Without any exaggeration, without John Urry’s scientific work and his incredible capacities of building networks, maintaining friendships, social relations in general and initiating collaboration, research, publications, conferences and so forth not only many careers wouldn’t have been possible. Mobilities research wouldn’t have this unique spirit of networking, collaboration and also solidarity. I really hope we can keep this for the future.
Next week at the AAG in San Francisco we wanted to celebrate the launch of a new journal – Applied Mobilities – with him. We will do this anyways, not at least because he would have hated it not to happen, because of him. And also, because this is the way how we as scientists can give him the honor and the appreciation that he deserves. Also this journal is standing on his shoulders! I will miss him there a lot and in the future and John will be very present when we will raise the glasses next week. My thoughts go to him and his family and friends. I feel very grateful to have met him and worked with him.
Such very sad news. John was one of the reasons I moved to Lancaster. This was back in 1989. His commitment to interdisciplinarity, his enthusiasm for new ideas and projects, and his welcoming and supportive disposition, made all the difference. Then, the Law Department was relatively isolated from the rest of the university, and there were those at Lancaster who believed that law, like plumbing, did not belong within the university firmament. John proved an indispensable ally in my effort to build bridges between law and the rest of the university, and a law department with a more inter-disciplinary orientation. Despite his many commitments, John played a lead role in the research group on the professions that I established, bringing together colleagues in the then social science faculty and the management school. That I was able to spend time with John on various interdisciplinary ventures, such as the Centre for Cultural Values, in the Advisory Board of the Institute of Advanced Studies, at workshops and conference, and above all, our meetings for lunch and at dinner, was a great privilege. Professionally, he was inspirational. I especially valued his impassioned and timely critiques of ideas, institutions and developments incompatible with democracy in ways that were challenging for the human sciences. I will never forget his smile, his humour and his friendship. He is simply irreplaceable.
In knew John through work with the Wordsworth Trust and the Lake District and it was such a pleasure and an honour to work with him. He was such a gentle kind man, who made every encounter enjoyable. I will miss his wry smile and laconic humour in many a meeting! Gone so suddenly but not forgotten for many a long year.
I was shocked and am deeply saddened by the news of John’s death. John was tremendously supportive of me from the day I arrived in Lancaster as a junior lecturer in January 1999. Being charged with ‘revamping’ and convening the first year undergraduate course for the Sociology degree, I approached John to teach a series of 10 lectures on ‘mobile lives’. He graciously accepted without letting on that, as a research professor, he should have been relieved of teaching at UG level (I only found out later, from another colleague). This is just one example that testifies to his collegiality and his unassuming presence and engagement with all of us in the department. He was a generous researcher, wonderful at bringing people and ideas together under the banner of new research areas such as tourism, mobilities, climate change, social futures, to name a few. He was a man of dialogue, not confrontation. A man committed to expanding the sociological imagination without losing sight of the crucial questions of power and inequality and the changing forms they have taken through the course of his career – from ‘the end of organised capitalism’ through to climate change and offshoring. His creativity and openness was an inspiration. I feel honoured to have known him and worked with him.
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