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.
This piece first appeared at Public Seminar.
Aimé Césaire called it: the so-called west is a decaying civilization. In both the United States and Europe, where institutions are receding, a base level of race-talk and racial solidarity is revealed as metastasizing beneath them. In such dim times, I turn to the writings of Paul Gilroy as offering an anti-racist vision that is transnational and cosmopolitan, but which draws on popular and vernacular forms of hybridity rather than elite ones.
In Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (Harvard), Gilroy offers a series of essays on the culture of what he has famously called the Black Atlantic as an alternative to race-talk but which is also outside of the various alternative nationalisms that flourish as a response. It is not reducible to liberalism, and it also attempts to fend off incorporation into the culture industry. That might be an urgent project for this “age of rendition.” (87) One in which in Judith Butler’s terms that which is grievable, or in Donna Haraway’s that which is killable, are respectively diminishing and expanding categories.
On this day in 1891 one of the most influential Marxists of the 21st Century, Antonio Gramsci, was born in the small town of Ales in Sardinia. Gramsci's work transformed how we think about a Marxist politics. Whereas the Russian Revolution occured in the "backward" Russia, and as such was as much a revolution against the "old regime" as against capital, Gramsci attempted to wrestle with the question of how we build a revolutionary movement in the developed areas of Western Europe. In particular it was his development of the concept of "hegemony" which was to prove the most influential. In this piece, from the great Stuart Hall and published in The Hard Road to Renewal, Hall attempts to expand these insights of Gramsci's to analyse the "regressive modernisation" of Thatcher. In an age where many are tackling the question of how to build a new left modernity, Gramsci and Hall are as relevant as ever.
Stuart Hall was a truly seminal figure of the left. Below is a list of his (staggering) life's work. Thanks to Jeremy Gilbert for helping us to compile it.