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Hall, Stuart (1932- )


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Marxist intellectual Stuart Hall was born on February 3, 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica to a middle class family.  He attended primary school in Jamaica and was exposed to a variety of thinkers in the Western canon as well as Caribbean writers.  Hall moved to England in 1951 with his mother as part of the large-scale postwar migration to England of people from the former colonies in the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent.  As a person of color in postwar England, Hall experienced racial discrimination, but he also won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he was introduced to British left-wing thought, European philosophy, and Socialism.  Hall wrote his PhD dissertation on Henry James before becoming the editor of the New Left Review

Hall was a mainstream Marxist scholar in the early 1950s but the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary caused him, along with intellectuals like E.P. Thompson and Raymond Williams, to seek alternatives to orthodoxy.  He joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1957 and edited the New Left Review from 1959 to 1961.  His work as the editor helped to open up public debate about the immigrants from India, Pakistan, and the Caribbean and the place of multiculturalism in postwar Britain.  In 1961, after the publication of The Popular Arts, he was invited to join the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University and became its director in 1968.  Hall, along with Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, is credited with developing the field of Cultural Studies.  The trio established the first Cultural Studies Program in Birmingham in 1964.  Hall was appointed professor of sociology at Open University in London in 1979.  After Margaret Thatcher, a staunch political conservative, came into power in 1979, Hall became one of the leading critics of Thatcherism for the next two decades, voicing his progressive views on the BBC. 

Hall is a cultural theorist and public intellectual of considerable standing in Great Britain.  His major works include Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse (1973), Policing the Crisis (1978), The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left (1988), New Ethnicities (1988), Cultural Identity and Diaspora (1994), Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1997), and Visual Culture (1999), along with numerous other books and articles.  His major interests focus on questions of multiculturalism, identity, gender, race, ideology, hegemony, popular culture, and interpretation.  He is deeply-engaged with Marxism, poststructuralism, and postcolonial studies and is a fervent critic of the role of media in articulating hegemonic discourse in a democratic society.

Hall retired from Open University in 1997 to pursue other projects.  He is married to Catherine Hall, the prominent feminist historian of Britain and Empire. 

Chris Rojek, Stuart Hall (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003); James Procter, Stuart Hall (London: Routledge, 2004); Brian Meeks and Stuart Hall, Culture, Politics, Race and Diaspora: The Thought of Stuart Hall (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007).

Turner, Melissa
Independent Historian

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