Stuart Hall’s retirement from the Open University in 1997 provided a unique opportunity to reflect on an academic career which has had the most profound impact on scholarship and teaching in many parts of the world.
From his early work on the media, through his influential re-working of Gramsci for the analysis of Britain in the late 1970s, through his considered debates on Thatcherism and more recently on “race” and new ethnicities, Hall has been an inspirational figure for generations of academics. He has helped to make universities places where ideas and social commitment can exist alongside each other.
This collection invites a wide range of academics who have been influenced by Stuart Hall’s writing to contribute not a memoir or a eulogy but an engaged piece of social, cultural or historical analysis which continues and develops the field of thinking opened up by Hall. The topics covered include identity and hybridity, history and post-colonialism, pedagogy and cultural politics, space and place, globalization and economy, modernity and difference.
Anyone trying to write a novel about the intellectual left in Britain, literary critic Terry Eagleton once suggested, would be more or less forced to reinvent the character of Stuart Hall. Thinking back on Hall’s life after his passing, on Feb. 10 at 82 years old, you can see Eagleton’s point. Widely considered the godfather of British multiculturalism, Hall was also the first editor of New Left Review, the most rigorous and refined left-wing journal in the English-speaking world.
Born in Jamaica Stuart Hall became a beacon of the New Left in Britain, a hugely influential cultural theorist and an incisive critic of Thatcherism and its sequels. He was the first editor of New Left Review in 1960 and became the director of the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies in 1964. He was acutely aware of the post-imperial, but sadly not post-racist, character of British society and believed that the British themselves stood to gain much from dispelling the lingering conceits of empire and national virtue which so often licensed aggression abroad and racial privilege at home.
Stuart was a brilliant essayist and broadcaster, publishing a number of landmark collections and recently himself becoming the subject of a feature documentary. In the pre-internet epoch his keynote articles on Thatcherism and the ‘Great Moving Right Show’ appeared in Marxism Today and The Guardian but that was just the start as innumerable photo-copies passed from hand to hand.