Saturday, October 28, 2006


Essential Black Thinkers: Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall, a leading figure of the British left over the past thirty years and a visionary theorist, had made profound contributions to the field of cultural studies. Texts include: Resistance through Rituals; The Popular Arts; Policing the Crisis; Culture, Media, Language, New Times; Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies; Questions of Cultural Identity, Representation and Visual Culture: A Reader; and Different Contemporary Photography and Black Identity.

Following on my admonition from yesterday that we must strive to remain tuned-in to the whole of African diasporic culture, may I present here one of our (the very broadest of inclusions meant here) most important leaders in that regard - Stuart Hall. I am no scholar or academic, so I cannot give you a run down of his various contributions to cultural studies, semiotics, visual culture, Marxism, etc. I can tell you that he is extraordinarily passionate, lucid and engaged; that he chairs two of the most important Black arts institutions (inIva and Autograph); and that if you want to understand how Black and Brown artists, culture makers and peoples can and will participate in the great game of global modernity, Stuart Hall must be studied and understood. To get a taste of his glorious erudition, passionate eloquence and ferocious intellect check out the archived stream of a symposium at the Tate Modern titled: Black British Art: The Revolt of the Artists

Wikipedia excerpt: Hall's work covers issues of hegemony and cultural studies, taking a post-Gramscian stance. He regards language-use as operating within a framework of power, institutions and politics/economics. This view presents people as producers and consumers of culture at the same time. (Hegemony, in Gramscian theory, refers to the cultural production of 'consent' as opposed to 'coercion'.) Hall has become one of the main proponents of reception theory. This approach to textual analysis focuses on the scope for negotiation and opposition on part of the audience. This means that the audience does not simply passively accept a text — whether a book or a film — and that an element of activity becomes involved. The person negotiates the meaning of the text. The meaning depends on the cultural background of the person. The background can explain how some readers accept a given reading of a text while others reject it.

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