Critiquing the media: Stuart Hall on television

Winter 2017

The work that Stuart Hall made for television - the Open Door programme It Ain’t Half Racist Mum, made in 1979, and the 1991 BBC series Redemption Song, on the history of the Caribbean - still has a great deal to teach us despite the degree to which the media landscape has changed since these programmes were made.1 These programmes speak of the media from within, but also speak back to it, using its specific language and rhetoric. Here I want to look at them as a way of revisiting relationships between cultural studies, media critique and media production. If anything, the ease of digital production and the accessibility of the media archive make Hall’s fusion of media critique and innovative practice all the more salient today, especially at a time when racism and the populist right are benefitting precisely from the kinds of representation that Hall’s work critiques. Hall often invoked Antonio Gramsci’s slogan for hard times, ‘pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’, and I want to advocate here a greater will for the work of media activism as part of our intellectual practice, including experiments in form, taking inspiration from Hall’s embodied broadcasts.

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