Edward Soja

Edward Soja

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Edward William Soja is a postmodern political geographer
Political geography
Political geography is the field of human geography that is concerned with the study of both the spatially uneven outcomes of political processes and the ways in which political processes are themselves affected by spatial structures...

 and urban planner
Urban planner
An urban planner or city planner is a professional who works in the field of urban planning/land use planning for the purpose of optimizing the effectiveness of a community's land use and infrastructure. They formulate plans for the development and management of urban and suburban areas, typically...

 on the faculty at UCLA, where he is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning, and the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

. He has a Ph.D. from Syracuse University
Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university located in Syracuse, New York, United States. Its roots can be traced back to Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1832, which also later founded Genesee College...

. His early research focused on planning in Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...


In addition to his readings of American feminist cultural theorist bell hooks
Bell hooks
Gloria Jean Watkins , better known by her pen name bell hooks, is an American author, feminist, and social activist....

 (b.1952), and French intellectual Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

 (1926–1984), Professor Ed 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
Henri Lefebvre
Henri Lefebvre was a French sociologist, Marxist intellectual, and philosopher, best known for his work on dialectics, Marxism, everyday life, cities, and space.-Biography:...

 (1901–1991), author of The Production of Space (1991). 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
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

. In 2010 the University of Minnesota Press
University of Minnesota Press
The University of Minnesota Press is a university press that is part of the University of Minnesota.Founded in 1925, the University of Minnesota Press is best known for its books in social and cultural thought, critical theory, race and ethnic studies, urbanism, feminist criticism, and media...

 has released his latest book, focused on Spatial justice
Spatial justice
Spatial justice links together social justice and space. The organization of space is a crucial dimension of human societies and reflects social facts and influences social relations . Consequently, both justice and injustice become visible in space...


Soja has collaborated on research and writing with, most notably, Professor Allen J. Scott
Allen J. Scott
Allen John Scott is a professor of geography and public policy at University of California, Los Angeles.- Biography :Scott was born in Liverpool, England in 1938 and graduated from Oxford University in 1961. He holds a Ph.D. degree from Northwestern University...

 (UCLA), Michael Storper (UCLA, LSE), Fredric Jameson
Fredric Jameson
Fredric Jameson is an American literary critic and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for his analysis of contemporary cultural trends—he once described postmodernism as the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized capitalism...

 (Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

), David Harvey
David Harvey
David Harvey is the name of:*David Harvey *David Harvey , geographer and social theorist*David Harvey , American luthier...

 (Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins was a wealthy American entrepreneur, philanthropist and abolitionist of 19th-century Baltimore, Maryland, now most noted for his philanthropic creation of the institutions that bear his name, namely the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Johns Hopkins University and its associated...

, CUNY), and various faculty in the departments of Urban Planning, Architecture, Policy Studies, and Geography at UCLA. Soja's research assistants for his latest work, Seeking Spatial Justice (2010), include Mustafa Dikec, Joe Boski, Tom Kemeny, Walter Nichols, Alfonso Hernandez-Marquez, Stefano Bloch, Ava Bromberg, and Konstantina Soureli.


Soja developed a theory of Thirdspace in which “everything comes together… subjectivity and objectivity, the abstract and the concrete, the real and the imagined, the knowable and the unimaginable, the repetitive and the differential, structure and agency, mind and body, consciousness and the unconscious, the disciplined and the transdisciplinary, everyday life and unending history.” As he explains, “I define Thirdspace as an-Other way of understanding and acting to change the spatiality of human life, a distinct mode of critical spatial awareness that is appropriate to the new scope and significance being brought about in the rebalanced trialectices of spatiality-historicality-sociality.”
Soja constructs Thirdspace from the spatial trialectics established by Henri Lefebvre
Henri Lefebvre
Henri Lefebvre was a French sociologist, Marxist intellectual, and philosopher, best known for his work on dialectics, Marxism, everyday life, cities, and space.-Biography:...

 in Production of Space and Michael Foucault’s concept of heterotopia
Heterotopia may refer to:* Heterotopia , the displacement of an organ from its normal position* Heterotopia , a concept of "other spaces" created by the philosopher Michel Foucault...

. He synthesizes these theories with the work of postcolonial thinkers from Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is an Indian literary critic, theorist and a University Professor at Columbia University. She is best known for the essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?", considered a founding text of postcolonialism, and for her translation of Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology. She...

 to bell hooks
Bell hooks
Gloria Jean Watkins , better known by her pen name bell hooks, is an American author, feminist, and social activist....

, Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

 to Homi Bhabha.

Like Lefebvre, sometimes called a mystical Marxist, Soja demonstrates leanings towards a monadic mysticism in his Thirdspace. He formulates Thirdspace by analogy with the Aleph
* Aleph or Alef is the first letter of the Semitic abjads descended from Proto-Canaanite, Arabic alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Hebrew alphabet, Syriac alphabet-People:*Aleph , an Italo disco artist and alias of Dave Rodgers...

, a concept of spatial infinity developed by Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo , known as Jorge Luis Borges , was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family...

. Thirdspace is a radically inclusive concept that encompasses epistemology, ontology, and historicity in continuous movement beyond dualisms and toward “an-Other”: as Soja explains, “thirding produces what might best be called a cumulative trialectics that it radically open to additional otherness, to a continuing expansion of spatial knowledge.” Thirdspace is a transcendent concept that is constantly expanding to include “an-Other,” thus enabling the contestation and re-negotiation of boundaries and cultural identity. Soja here closely resembles Homi Bhabha’s theory of cultural hybridization, in which “all forms of culture are continually in a process of hybridity,” that “displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives… The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.”

Visions for Los Angeles

Soja has introduced six visions for the City of Los Angeles . These are the following:
  • Flexicity: Deindustrialization has been occurring alongside a potent reindustrialization process built not just on high technology.
  • Cosmopolis: The primacy of globalization. Globalization of culture, labor and capital. Reworlds the city.
  • Expolis: The city that no longer conveys the traditional qualities of cityness. No cityness about Los Angeles. Growth of the outer city and city edges. More urban life.
  • Metropolarities: Increasing social inequalities, widening income gaps, new kinds of social polarization and satisfaction that fit uncomfortably within traditional dualisms based on class or race, as well as conventional. New underclass debate.
  • Carcereal Archipielagos: A fortified city with bulging prisons. The City of Quartz. More surveillance.
  • Simcity: A place where simulations of a presumably real world increasingly capture and activate our urban imaginary and infiltrate everything urban life. An electronic generation of hyper reality.


These are some of his publications:
  • Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso Press, 1989.
  • Scott, A.J and E.W. Soja, eds. The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1996.
  • Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1996.
  • Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2000.
  • "Writing the city spatially", City, November, 2003.
  • "The city and spatial justice", Justice spatiale | Spatial Justice, n° 1 September 2009.
  • Seeking Spatial Justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2010.

Further reading

(A review of Soja's Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions, ISBN 1-57718-001-1.)

External links