to Stuart Hall made us see the world differently and he had a gift that enabled
us to understand our life anew. He
seemed to be talking directly to you, even if it was through the TV screen or through
the pages of one of his many influential essays.
think that is why so many people – even students and readers who never met him
in person – feel such a deep sense of personal loss at the news of his
passing. It is as if a bright star
that gave us a bearing in life to navigate our course has fallen from the
for him was always a process of transformation and changing himself, making
sense out of the senselessness of exploitation, imperialism and racism. If you followed his thought you could
not help but be transformed too. It was impossible to ever drink a cup of tea again without
being reminded of the imperial traces in the brown leaves and the sugar’s sweet
Hall had an incredible capacity for intellectual generosity. He could unlock a student trapped by an
intellectual conundrum with a single phrase. He was interested in what you had
to say and in conversation he would use phrases like - “of course you have
written about that.” The sense of
acknowledgement was incredibly validating, conveying a sense that you were
playing a part in a much bigger project of transformation.
rarely got embroiled in personal infighting within the anti-racist Left and I
think he had a sense of where deep defining political fault lines lay in the
struggle for a more just society. He
helped you keep your mind open and to resist what Freud called the “narcissism
of minor differences.”
is a terrible prospect to contemplate the world without his wisdom and counsel.
The weekend before he died I was reading one of his lesser know essays - “Marx’s
Notes on Method: A ‘Reading of the ‘1857
Introduction’” that was published in a CCCS collection. Reading his words on the page I could
almost hear his unique voice, his sense of humour and his joy in understanding
something important as if for the first time.
are precious gifts bequeathed to us in his writing. There is something else though,
perhaps even more urgent, we should remember as we pay tribute to him and his generous
Hall’s life offers us an alternative path to follow in the vocation of thinking
and learning. He was committed to
intervening publically on key political questions: he never followed a narrow
academic path but knew theory was an essential lens for critique. We should honour that by asking, at any
given point in a political argument or in an encounter with a student: “what
would Stuart Hall do?” Then, having established an answer with our own wits, act
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