10 February 2014

Stuart Hall (1932-2014)

photo by Eamonn McCabe, from The Guardian

I was stunned this morning to learn of the death of Stuart Hall, one of the great intellectuals of our time. Stunned not because it was entirely unexpected — he was not in the best of health, and had mostly retired from public life — but simply because it feels strange to live in the world after Stuart Hall.

It's entirely likely that you have never heard of Stuart Hall. His fame, particularly outside of the UK, is mostly related to a specific academic field (cultural studies) and his work has not been as well collected and disseminated as it deserves. I was late to his work, learning of it only when I began my master's degree (in cultural studies), and at first I couldn't see its significance — a lot of what he said seemed tied to specific events, specific moments, and many of the ideas he considered were, I assumed at first, part of an academic past that was no longer relevant. His sentences tended to be complex, his vocabulary and range of references even more so. But something about what he wrote made me think I was missing something, and I'm glad I had that perception, because I was right. At some point, with some essay or another, it began to click into place. And from that moment on, I sought out everything I could find by Hall.

There will, I hope, be insightful reflections on his work in the wake of his death. I hope there will also be some new collections of his writings, because we need them. What most sticks with me about Hall's work is its nuance and insistence on tackling ideas in their complexity and contradiction rather than simplifying them, even if simplification would make us more comfortable or more righteous. I am wary of saying anything more right now, because to do so would risk just such simplification of his own ideas. Instead, below the jump, I will leave you with some links to writings by Hall, interviews with him, and a couple of video and audio items.


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