There has never been, nor will ever be, anyone like our friend Leijia.
We grieve so deeply the recent loss of Leijia Hanrahan. Leijia was our friend and our critic, sometimes collaborator and always fellow traveler, an indescribable presence who mixed cynicism, cheer, and irreverence in a way no one else could. She was a writer, translator, poet, scholar, and much more, a feminist and anti-capitalist who lived her values fiercely and held others to firm account. Leijia was intimately involved in cross-continental struggles for two decades, from the United States to the United Kingdom to Chile and beyond.
Over these years our paths crisscrossed, overlapped, were occasionally at odds, drifted apart, and came together again. In and out of struggle she pushed us and everyone she met to become better persons, accompanying others through their challenges and helping them to grow beyond their shortcomings, while inwardly tending a profound pain the depths of which many were not aware. Ours was a friendship that was still deepening even in the days before her death. Leijia reminded us there is no promise of better days ahead, there is only the work we do and the wounds we bear.
We’ve devoted the following issue to her work, highlighting several pieces she wrote that were particularly important to us. We’ve also listed a few thoughts and remembrances from some of her friends and comrades. We hope the constellation they form offers you a glimpse of this person we love and miss, and whose stars will never disappear from the sky above this path we each walk in our own way.
Leijia in Her Own Words
The following links are only a small sample of Leijia’s writing, which ranged from critical journalistic prose to scholarly essays, short stories and poetry. You can find most of her work on her website, and more extensive anthologies of her poetry and prose are forthcoming.
"The Problem with Neighbors,” Failed Architecture
"Preface: ‘The Irreducible Gap’ by Lea Melandri,” Ill Will Editions
“You Are Here,” Real Life
“We can’t pedal our way out of the climate crisis,” The Architect’s Newspaper
“Chilean Tourism and the Indigenous Mapuche,” World Footprints
“Tech, class, cynicism, and pandemic real estate,” The Architect’s Newspaper
— en Español por Plataforma Arquitectura
— em Português por ArchDaily Brasil
Some Memories of Leijia
Our friend’s back tattoo:
And all the while everyone wants to breathe and no-one can breathe, and many say "We will breathe later," and most do not die, because they are already dead.
It is now or never.
I met Leijia in Santiago de Chile. We met the day I had to go look for her in a corner in the city center. She was staying in a hostel but would move to our collective house. Her Spanish accent caught my attention, it had something Mexican about it, but I wasn't sure. After talking for a while, every time I told her something that needed a yes or no for an answer, she answered me "Yes sir,” "no sir." At that time I was, I think, 27 years old, so it was very rare for someone to call me "sir,” and I asked her to please not call me sir. She answered me "good sir" with a serious look, which made me laugh. She was making a joke with me just a few minutes after we met and I liked that.
I think she lived at our collective house for a few months. During that season, there were several music events in which she performed, singing and playing the guitar. In each event, at least three or four singer-songwriters played. Those were good times, there was a lot more hope and ingenuity in the way we did politics. The house was a space for meetings, training, talks and debates. Leijia shared many of those moments with us and bonded with the people connected to the space. In the following years, she returned a couple of times, for shorter stays and different goals, introducing us to other comrades. Later, while she was in London, she helped us on more than one occasion with the translation of subtitles, texts and international campaigns, showing dedication and concern for the situation and projects in Chile.
Although in recent years we have not maintained communication, hearing of her death was as painful as having lost one of my closest comrades. Perhaps because the decision she made, regardless of her motives and reasons, is difficult, and for many people has become something normal to think of as an option.
When it was decided that I would travel from the southern coast of Chile to New York for just 24 hours to be present at her memorial, I felt responsible for bringing a tribute that would be adequate to our comrade and our loss of her, but nothing seemed to be enough. It was then that I decided to take the only cement brick I had saved from the 2019 riots in Santiago. I read all the rules about carry-on luggage, since the flight from Santiago to NY was an economy flight with only carry-on luggage. Nowhere did it say you couldn't take a brick.
I thought that this could be the type of tribute that a comrade like Leijia needed, because it was not just a symbol, but really a piece of the city, of the same streets that Leijia walked while she was in Santiago. It was a piece of Plaza Dignidad, the epicenter of the protests.
These bricks were passed from hand to hand by hundreds of people who gave everything in an atmosphere of hope and joy, of fire and barricades, but also of pain for the loss of life during the revolt. Hundreds of people had lost at least one of their eyes due to pellet shots. But even so, it did not stop the energy of the streets.
The day before the memorial for Leijia, when I arrived at the American Airlines counter at the Santiago airport, the lady at the front desk asked me a series of questions.
Her: “Do you know the rules for your carry-on?”
Her: “Are you bringing any item that is on the list of prohibited items?”
To which I replied:
Me: “Hmm…actually, I'm not sure. One of the items I'm bringing might be a problem.”
Her: “What is it?"
Me: “It may seem strange, but I'm carrying a brick.”
Her, with an intrigued face: "A brick…?"
Me: "Yes, a brick."
Her, with the same intrigued face: "But...what do you mean by a brick?"
Me: "Just that. A cement brick. I read all the rules and it doesn't say anywhere that I can't carry it. It’s pretty much the only thing I have with me, so I don't exceed the maximum weight."
Her: “A cement brick…interesting. And would it be possible for you to show me your brick, to get a better idea?”
Me: "Yes, of course. Tomorrow is the funeral of a friend, that is the reason for my trip. This brick was part of the terrace of the house where we lived together, it has a very important value for me."
I put my suitcase on the floor and she came in front of the counter. As there were a lot of people and those close to me heard the conversation, a certain enthusiasm was generated to see what the brick we were talking about was like. And of course, I opened the suitcase and there it was.
She immediately reacted with a smile.
Her, laughing: “Ooh wow, it's literally a brick!”
Me: “I told you!"
Her, with a smile on her face: "In my entire career I have never seen a brick in hand luggage...and to be honest I'm not sure if it would be a problem or not...mmm let's see. Can I show it to my supervisor?"
Me: "Yes, please."
I took the brick with both hands and handed it to her, like someone handing over a trophy. She took it and reacted to the weight, it seemed as if she had never held a brick in her hands: “And it's heavy!"
Me, also smiling: "Yes, it's heavy."
Her: "Yeah, I'll take it."
The lady took it in a way such that one of her hands held all the weight at the height of her shoulder, while the other hand only kept her balance. Holding this strange pose, she walked among the gathered people, asking permission to pass. The supervisor was at the front of the line and the airport was quite full. The scene was funny, people made way for her while she, with pretty shoes and carrying a brick on her shoulder, advanced, almost as if showing off the brick, while everyone watched. Once with the supervisor, they looked at the brick and looked at me, they took their time and repeated the movement. They looked at the brick, talked to each other and looked at me again, him serious and her smiling. After maybe a minute, she came back the same way she went.
Her: “Well, my supervisor says it's almost 100% certain that you won't be allowed on the plane with your brick. Even though it's not explicitly in the rules, a brick doesn't count as carry-on baggage. The only option is to check your suitcase and transport it in the hold of the plane.”
Since in New York a comrade would pick me up at JFK airport, I thought that perhaps I could make the 24-hour memorial austerely and I did so.
I did not travel to Leijia’s memorial just because I wanted to say goodbye to her, but to be present for this meeting between her loved ones, the life and the strength of the connections that Leijia had built in these lands. While I felt the responsibility of somehow representing Leijia’s connections to and friends in Chile, it calmed me down to know that I was carrying something important that she would undoubtedly have liked as a gift.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me to find that space, where I felt the pain of losing Leijia while in the company of her loved ones, with whom I was able to discover her legacy.
She will be missed throughout this entire region.
Leijia and I were introduced through a mutual friend from gathering out west. The second year I attended, I was planning to move back to New York after three years on the west coast. My political network—based primarily in California at the time—was scattered and little established on the East Coast. I’ll put you in touch with Leijia, H assured me.
Ours began as a story of missed connections. In our post-college years, L, involved with the Silent Barn; me, involved peripherally for a scant year. Or later, L at the upstate compound napping before dinner on New Year’s Eve; me, concerned, watching the frozen turkey defrost by the wood-fired stove in the room adjacent. Or both in London for school, perhaps looping around and around and around each other, never crossing paths.
This is an ode to an anarchist who loved those who don’t present as anarchists.
We led parallel lives but she was paces ahead. When we finally met, I was intimidated. Masses of Gibson Girl hair and a mellifluous voice edged with American Spirits. I never saw a person smoke a cigarette so elegantly. She was warm and brilliant and apparently self-assured. And frank and funny and fucking cool. I trusted her with my gut, even though most of our friendship passed through the pandemic and across boroughs, without many opportunities to see each other in person.
We chatted cities, geographies, proximity, propinquity, the possibility of communism as an ethic. We railed against leftist vanity projects, tactless editors, shitty anarchist men. Fuck theory, she let me complain—before she would tell me about the 20+ reading groups in which she was active. She let me confide in her, confided in me, and constantly reached out to check in. She held me accountable to this community, as frustrated as I can be with its clannishness. She came back with care again and again, inviting me to feel close. And for her sake, I will try to stay close.
I marvel at the way she brought people together, her tack-sharp critical writing, her gorgeous poetry. I'll miss her absolute genius, that honeyed voice, the comradely way she called me “babe,” and our promises to catch up over drinks (which always eventually happened).
I've overhauled this little eulogy several times. There is no adequate ending. I knew L was unwell when I saw her last month. She was forthcoming enough about her health for me to know she was in pain, but I didn't realize the extent of her despair.
The way we live is so atomizing. It will be much harder to figure things out without her. But for now, per her words (thank you for sharing, C), let's hack away at communism and friendship until something goes right. Leijia forever and ever and ever.
Leijia and I went to see Mischief Brew together, it was both our first time. I was 5 months pregnant at the time and driving. Some old but ripped looking dude started banging on my car, and wouldn’t stop. Leijia’s brave ass got out the car and confronted the dude. She could have gotten hurt, and did it anyway. We had such a great time at the show, she was so caring to me through our entire friendship, she was tough and sweet.
I first got to know Leijia back in 2019, when FTP3 was happening. I have no idea when we first met, the communist networks we shared were kind of a blur back then. But it wasn’t until after the uprising that we began working together, and through that work, became very close friends. She basically bottom-lined the reading group we’d planned together whenever I couldn’t, and even though her health troubles kept her from coming to an overseas academic conference I was organizing, she joined the reading and support group for the other new panelists — many of whom were new to the anxious intensity and drive-to-mastery of academic conference spaces — “just to help out where she could.” She couldn’t even fucking go she was in so much pain, and she still showed up to read everyone’s papers and talk to them!!!
We talked a lot, about that work and other things. We talked a lot about feminism and gender. While driving to up north one weekend, she listened closely as I detailed all the things I felt ashamed of in my efforts as a communist, all the ways I’d been toxic and shitty to people around me while organizing projects in the midwest. She listened closely, said “that’s fucked up man,” and then proceeded to tell me the long, crazy and amazing story of her militant feminist political efforts. She spoke of her severe frustration and anger with the men in our various communist networks, but never once - not once! - with bitterness or vindictive affect.
My world fell completely apart in 2020, and Leijia was at the very center of the new one I was building. She was excited by everything I suggested, reciprocated my energies at ever turn - even amidst her doctors appointments and acute chronic pains. I saw her for the last time six days before she passed away, sitting with her and C by that beautiful but kind of fucked-up looking Peace Fountain next to Catherine St. John the Divine Catherdral. She’d just come from a Public Shredding Event, a service the NY city council provides from time to time. I couldn’t believe the city council hosted regular shredding festivals, but she just laughed and said “in fact it’s our most requested service!” Despite all the pain and suffering she was enduring at that very moment, despite her ongoing emotional and intellectual exhaustion working for people who in no way deserved her, Leijia still found joy in helping people solve the problem of Too Much Paper.
It was always one of the brightest moments in a very dark few months when Leijia would text or call asking when I’d come back through NYC to hang out with her. I didn’t realize she was likely so insistent because she wanted to say goodbye. And when she did, next to Greg Wyatt’s weird-ass Peace Fountain, she did it laughing, eyes glinting, ready to roast me for the silly things I said and interested until the very end in what others thought and felt and said.
I wish I could have known her longer. One of the many feelings pushing through my chest is a strange jealousy that so many of you got to do so many badass things with her for so long. But it makes perfect sense. She deserved you all, and you deserved her too. Thank you for helping me see even more of her, and understand even more vividly why it felt so nice to be near her.
I can relate to the person who said Leijia never made them feel bad for not knowing/reading all the things, and I took comfort seeing her standing outside of our social center or whatever venue, smoking and running circles around whatever thinky-talky boy had chosen to try to spar with her.
One of the last times I saw her, when she and J visited us, I was struck by this amazing conversation she had with my three-year-old neighbor, it was the most engaged and on her level while somehow still not treating her like a child I imagined anyone had ever been with her. There was a mutual respect and rapport between them that Leijia established so effortlessly.
The kinds of things we bonded over were things like our respective experiences of taking psych meds that never quite worked, pain and injuries, was quitting drinking really all it’s cracked up to be, therapists and who’s covered by Medicaid, frustration with Medicaid, how to scam Medicaid to get what we need, how to make enough money to live in NYC and scam taxes to make it look like we didn’t so we can keep our Medicaid.
I have immense empathy for Leijia’s decision. I remember times when I was finding no relief and things were becoming untenable and I was getting impatient and the thought of another day or another doctor who would fail to understand what was going on brought so much despair. There’s something comforting about the agency involved, about this having been a choice. The care she took with details, the ways she chose to communicate with us. Of course I don’t know, but I imagine Leijia clear-headed, because how else would I imagine her. I don’t know if I imagine her sadness at wanting to leave, sadness imagining everyone who loved her devastated, I imagine her feeling done, not because I have any idea how she felt, but because I know how I’ve felt when it seemed no relief was possible. Maybe I need to feel this way, to feel like there was something that felt powerful to her in her choice.
I have often felt like one of the problems with some of the rhetoric we’ve developed is that there’s this way it seems to be saying “communism will take care of all your needs,” Leijia and I knew this wasn’t true, since there are no neurologists, urologists or the many other specialists we needed to access over the years within our networks. I have seen people destroyed by the disappointment that political milieus fail to provide everything they need. Leijia had no illusions about this as she made clear in her letter to C. And yet, I wonder could she have asked more, expected more of us? I don’t know if this line of questioning is worth pursuing, but it feels hard not to.
And then I’m also baffled, we texted the week before, I had recommended an acupuncturist and she had gone and wanted to talk about it. She seemed excited, optimistic and looking forward to continuing treatment. We ended the exchange with me saying I look forward to hearing more about how it’s going. She said “For sure! Send my love to M and the little one.” I’ve considered whether or not that entire exchange was purely for that last line. I know others have plans with her this week, left painfully open. Yet nothing about this seems spontaneous. Maybe this level of betrayal is part of caring both for the people you leave and your decision, her grace within the impossibility of balancing that ethical contradiction. I’m choosing to imagine her in this state of empowered grace, because of who she was and by the care and intentionality she took. I would like to think she would be ok with that.