Stuart Hall was the most important public intellectual of the past 50 years. In an age where having a TV show allegedly makes someone a public intellectual and where the status of the university you work at counts for more than what you have to say, Hall’s work seems even more urgent and his passing, somehow, even sadder. …
Right now I can see those who have been impacted by Hall’s work rushing to organize symposia and special issues of journals in his honor. That is all fine. He deserves to be remembered within academic spaces. But he was first and foremost an intellectual and an educator committed to socialist politics. Truly wrestling with and celebrating his life’s work means recognizing that truth. Ultimately, like the tradition of radical intellectuals of the left to which he belongs and to my mind now stands above, Hall’s legacy is one that implores us to always confront the political … and to do so with a smile and a generosity of spirit….
The foundations of cultural studies lay in an insistence on taking popular, low-status cultural forms seriously and tracing the interweaving threads of culture, power and politics. Its interdisciplinary perspectives drew on literary theory, linguistics and cultural anthropology in order to analyse subjects as diverse as youth sub-cultures, popular media and gendered and ethnic identities – thus creating something of a model, for example, for the Guardian’s own G2 section.
Hall was always among the first to identify key questions of the age, and routinely sceptical about easy answers. A spellbinding orator and a teacher of enormous influence, he never indulged in academic point-scoring. Hall’s political imagination combined vitality and subtlety; in the field of ideas he was tough, ready to combat positions he believed to be politically dangerous. Yet he was unfailingly courteous, generous towards students, activists, artists, and visitors from across the globe, many of whom came to love him. Hall won accolades from universities worldwide, despite never thinking of himself as a scholar. Universities offered him a base from which he could teach – a source of great pleasure for him – and collaborate with others in public debate…
Read the rest: Stuart Hall obituary | Politics | The Guardian
Rest in power.
In a long interview, Scott and Orlando Patterson discuss the sociologist and novelist’s childhood, education, public service, and books.