Edward William Soja was a self-described “urbanist,” a noted postmodern political geographer and urban theorist on the planning faculty at UCLA, where he was Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning, and the London School of Economics. He had a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. His early research focused on planning in Kenya, but Soja came to be known as the world’s leading spatial theorist with a distinguished career writing on spatial formations and social justice.
In 2015 he was awarded the Vautrin Lud Prize, the highest honor for a geographer and often called the Nobel Prize in the field of geography.
In addition to his readings of American feminist cultural theorist bell hooks (b. 1952), and French intellectual Michel Foucault (1926–1984), Soja’s greatest contribution to spatial theory and the field of cultural geography is his use of the work of French Marxist urban sociologist Henri Lefebvre (1901–1991), author of The Production of Space (1974). Soja has updated Lefebvre’s concept of the spatial triad with his own concept of spatial trialectics which includes thirdspace, or spaces that are both real and imagined.
Soja focuses his critical postmodern analysis of space and society, or what he calls spatiality, on the people and places of Los Angeles. In 2010 the University of Minnesota Press released his recent work on spatial justice, which was followed in 2014 with his newest book “My Los Angeles” published by the University of California Press.
Soja has collaborated on research and writing with, most notably, Professor Allen J. Scott (UCLA), Michael Storper (UCLA, LSE), Fredric Jameson (Duke University), David Harvey (Johns Hopkins, CUNY), and various faculty in the departments of Urban Planning, Architecture, Policy Studies, and Geography at UCLA.
Soja has served as the doctoral academic advisor to, most recently, Professor Mustafa Dikec (École d’Urbanisme de Paris), Dr. Walter J. Nicholls (University of Amsterdam), Dr. Mark Purcell (University of Washington), and Dr. Stefano Bloch (Brown University).