Skip to main content

Obituary - Professor John Rex

Eminent University of Warwick sociologist Professor John Rex, best known for his influential work on race and ethnic relations, has passed away aged 86.

Professor Rex founded Warwick’s Sociology department in 1970 and had remained with Warwick as a emeritus Professor.

He arrived in the UK from South Africa in 1949 to teach and carry out research in sociological theory and ethnic relations. His first position was at the University of Leeds. He also held positions at University of Birmingham and the University of Durham.

Professor Rex first came to the University of Warwick in 1970 until 1979, and then returned again to Warwick in 1984. He later went on to work in Cape Town and New York, but accepted an emeritus position with the University of Warwick on his retirement.

Some of his best known books are Key Problems of Sociological Theory (1964), Race Relations in Sociological Theory (1970), Race and Ethnicity (1986). His most recent book is Ethnic Minorities in the Modern Nation State: Working Paper in the Theory of Multi-Culturalism and Political Integration (1996). However one of his most memorable works , certainly here in the Midlands, was published in 1967 when John Rex, together and Robert Moore, produced their groundbreaking study, Race, Community, and Conflict: A Study of Sparkbrook. The book examined the possible role of the housing shortages in Birmingham in the rise of 'racial' conflict.

Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift said: “We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Professor Rex’s death. He was an immense figure in British sociology and a valued and respected member of the Warwick community. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Professor Peter Ratcliffe, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and Director of the Centre for Rights, Equality and Diversity (CRED) was a colleague and collaborator. He said:

"John was the reason that I, and a number of my colleagues, came to Warwick. He was a towering figure in British, indeed international, sociology at the time. I, for one, relished the opportunity to work with him. I shared his interest in what was, at that time, termed the 'sociology of race relations' and was privileged to have be able to join him on his major study of 'racial' inequality and class relations in Birmingham in the mid-1970s."