Stuart Hall in memoriam

We miss Stuart most as a much loved colleague and as a founder and co-editor of Soundings, but this project was only a small part of his life and work. Stuart opened up whole new worlds to so many of us through his pioneering insights about the centrality of culture to politics, about identity and representation, race and empire, Thatcherism, photography, new times, neoliberalism, reading Gramsci, understanding Blairism… the list could go on and on. We have made this web-page so that others can share with us in remembering Stuart and all the different things he meant to us. A full version of this piece is available on our blog.

We have collected together some of the tributes to and obituaries of Stuart, which are listed below, not in any particular order. If you would like to add a link, or share your memories and photos of Stuart, please email us at sally@lwbooks.co.uk or add a comment on our Soundings Facebook page.

Tributes to Stuart Hall

Liv Sovik: ‘[W]e can think of the way Hall elaborated his thinking as having a musical structure, in which theme and variation can be interrupted by improvisation, a solo can come forth out of a chorus of voices from the bibliography, understood as a source of strength to be mustered to understand different objects – different from the academic habit of negative criticism of predecessors under pain of seeming submissive to them. Maybe it was his way of feeling and elaborating ideas, based on a deep musical structure, had to do with Brazilian cultural life that his work has resonated so strongly here.
Read More (English) | Read more (Portuguese)

Hilary Wainwright: ‘I’ve been pondering on what it was that was distinctively special about Stuart - all the tributes confirm one’s instinct that we have lost someone with a special spirit that we must try to carry inside us. I think it was that his thinking and spirit took us all to levels of imagination beyond our own routine capacities and habitual horizons. It enabled him — and, when inspired by him, us — to steer clear of the “narcissism of small differences” which constantly cuts short our reach.’ Read more

Leslie Roman: ‘It may seem paradoxical now but the scholar who wrote about “minimal selves” won over, no “seduced”, multiple publics much larger than any single group identifying with him by race, class, gender, disability or diaspora.’ Read more

Wahneema Lubiano: ‘I saw a special kind of illumination in his work, a willingness to continue thought and political work without the comfort of a foreseeable destination, and that, that openness, beckoned me.’ Read more

Kobena Mercer: ‘As a public intellectual for whom the form and medium of communication was as significant as the content, his legacy in radio, television and film is something I especially cherish since, as a 1970s teenager staying up late one night and coming across an Open University broadcast in which Stuart spoke on Marxism, I experienced something that I am glad to say changed my life forever.’ Read more

Venício A. Lima: ‘Seu enorme legado intelectual deve ser celebrado embora, especificamente nos estudos de comunicação e mídia, não tenha exercido a influência que deve e merece no Brasil. Esse registro – simplificado e seletivo – abarca apenas alguns aspectos dessa contribuição específica, respeitadas as circunstâncias do tempo histórico em que aconteceram.’ Read more

Mark Perryman: ‘The legitimisation of doubt, to be hesitant not certain, to engage with the probability of things we thought were right being wrong – Stuart opened up all those possibilities, but never in the abstract, and not to demoralise either.’ Read more

Annie Paul: ‘I was impressed by how many people recognised him on the street, the waiters and doormen who knew him from his famous Open University TV lectures, and who felt comfortable enough to approach him. Clearly Stuart had reached a lot of regular people way beyond the circuits of academia.’ Read more

A clerihew from Julian Wood:
Stuart Hall
had time for all,
and he never lost sight
of why the Left was right.

Jaafar Aksikas, Cultural Studies Association, USA: ‘Such a loss must not and cannot go unmarked in Cultural Studies or in New Left circles more broadly … He is the epitome of the Gramscian organic intellectual, who sought to understand the complexity of the cultural and social worlds we inhabit, always with the unwavering commitment to intervene into and help transform concrete social conjunctures and formations.’ Read more

Professor U.R. Anantha Murthy: ‘I have many memories of this gentle, open, physically attractive, committed intellectual, and for me he is a great third world figure.’ Read more

Gary Younge: :‘He was not interested in sounding clever but in being useful and making a difference.’ Read more

Bill Schwarz and David Morley: ‘The music of Miles Davis represented for him “the sound of what cannot be”. What was his own intellectual life but the striving, against all odds, to make “what cannot be” alive in the imagination?’ Read more

Couze Venn: ‘It was the friendship, the sharing of ideas, the cool sense of humour he brought to the debates and exchange of views. For those who knew him, Stuart remains the constant interlocutor, the imaginary friend and mentor who looks over one’s shoulder as one writes, steering the writing away from the crass, the too abstract or too removed from the reality of people’s lives.’ Read more

Clancy Sigal: ‘An explosive, odd, inspiring mix of “absolute beginners”: fed up Young Communists, disillusioned Young Liberals, third-generation Labour children marching with idealistic Bow Group Young Conservatives, the unincorporated and uninitiated. Holding it all together was Stuart’s calm, humorous, easy, erudite personality. He was the very opposite of a political blusterer. This was Stuart the gentle, firm, forbearing but determined organiser before he became a world famous cultural theorist.’ Read more

Mass Review, University of Massachusetts: ‘We are the beneficiaries of that brave and rigorous curiosity, and in exchange Hall has drawn our sustained attention and our affection. This is a rare response to a theorist and public intellectual, one brought forth by Hall’s incandescent thought, his breadth and care, his real-worldliness, and his gifts for friendship and solidarity over the long haul.’ Read more

Yasmin Gunaratnam: ‘… if we are to learn from Hall’s attentiveness to “routes” and if we worry away at the layers of “displacement” that he saw as being so critical to diasporic experience, it is time to take post-colonial critique and activism to the concerns of the care home, the hospice, the diasporic deathbed.’ Read more

Sarita Malik: ’Stuart Hall was known not just for his intellectual brilliance and political energy, but also for the accessibility of his ideas.’ Read more

Merilyn Moos: ‘Stuart did not see himself as an academic but, when pushed, would say he was an intellectual, referring to Gramsci’s concept of the organic intellectual: somebody who would strive to counter the dominant hegemony. Stuart would have mocked so many of his obituaries as they try to present him as anything but the black revolutionary that he was.’ Read more

Jessica Evans, Open University: ‘Stuart believed that higher education could not but effect a critical transition at a personal level if it’s to be successful – it aims to develop and change the whole person through an encounter with an “other”; opening up a new world and future imaginings of what we can achieve and aspire to … He was the subtlest and most agile thinker of his generation, and those of us lucky enough to work with him realise that being with Stuart was a life-changing experience.’ Read more

Mica Nava, Centre for Cultural Studies Research, UEL: ‘His intellectual influence was gigantic and was transmitted across generations and across disciplinary boundaries. His ideas transformed all aspects of the humanities and social sciences … in part because of his brilliance and charisma as a public speaker and his insistence always on the exploring the political implications of research – of engaging with meaning.’ Read more

David Edgar: ‘The Centre’s most famous publication – the 1978 Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order – analysed, in prescient detail, the way in which a non-problem was formatted racially in a way which anticipated the treatment of Muslims and indeed Romanians today. In addition to coining the term Thatcherism in 1979, he was the first to identify Thatcher’s cocktail of free market liberalism and social authoritarianism as an update of Powellism.’ Read more

Dorothy Hobson: ‘Stuart was interested in everything. He delighted in hearing how the women I interviewed defined the difference between news and current affairs and the male agenda of the news producers.’ Read more

Nirmal Puwar: ‘There were many other occasions when I met Stuart Hall. Of course we meet him when we read, teach and debate his vast scholarship. To meet him as a reader is to find a form of speech which is always directly addressing you.’ Read more

Les Back: ‘[…] 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.” Read more

Paul Warmington: ‘[..] we need to nurture Britain’s black intellectuals. Failure to understand black Britons as thinkers makes for an immature view of black life, and it impoverishes the way we understand Britain today. That is one of the lessons that Stuart Hall never ceased to teach.’ Read more

Lynne Segal: Despite Stuart’s deep pessimism about the present, he never relinquished possibilities for hope: ‘I think that while sometimes the situation looks extremely bleak – as it does at the moment - there are always what Raymond Williams calls “emergent forces and ideas”, which cannot be contained within the existing structure of settlements and compromises which constitute the dominant social order. Other wishes, desires, ideas and interests cannot be indefinitely contained. They will always break through in ways you cannot anticipate or predict’.

Martin Jacques: ‘It took an outsider, a black Jamaican, to help us understand and make sense of Britain’s continuing decline. He was in so many ways well ahead of his time. It is difficult to think of anyone else that has offered such a powerful insight into what has been happening to us over the past 70 years’ Read more

Lawrence Grossberg: ‘As so many people told me, they had never met an academic like this before—humble, generous, passionate, someone who treated everyone with equal respect and listened to what they had to say, someone who believed ideas mattered, because of our responsibility as intellectuals to people and the world. Someone who refused to play the role of star!’ Read more

Matthew Hilton and Kieran Connell from the 50th anniversary of CCCS project pay homage to Stuart. Read more

The Daily Telegraph: Stuart Hall, ‘a leading cultural theorist and as a hero of the intellectual Left’ Read more

mediadiversified.org: ‘We have come together as black feminists to commemorate Stuart Hall. […] A vibrant presence, Stuart wore his expansive knowledge lightly. He wasn’t show-offy or undermining, as many intellectuals can be. If he was at home in an auditorium speaking to hundreds of people, he was equally adept at making himself small, to listen and coax out the stories of others.’ Read more

Angela McRobbie: ‘Stuart had a deep and abiding love for ordinary everyday life and ordinary people’ Read more

Suzanne Moore: ‘The thinkers currently advising Ed Miliband are borrowing from Hall’s work, though to seek a populist consensus around nation and family is anathema to it. Edging towards addressing inequality rather than thinking the market will adjust, as Miliband did in last month’s Hugo Young lecture, is more like it.’ Read more

Isaac Julien: ‘Stuart’s double position – eagerly greeting this new wave of left-wing thought but subjecting it to rigorous critique – was instrumental in helping me form my own path through the stories that my research turned up.’ Read more

Mica Nava: Stuart Hall, among others, manned the crèche at the first Women’s conference at Ruskin College, Oxford, in 1970. Mica says: ‘…all carers at the conference crèche were men. So the use of manning in my caption [i]s quite deliberate. The other man in this photo is Henry Wortis. There is another photo taken at the same time of my son Jake aged 6 months in the arms of cinema historian Chris Williams. All photos of the Ruskin conference were by Sally Fraser (now Chandan Fraser)’

Robin Blackburn: ‘Stuart’s cultural essays allowed each reader to become his or her own demystifier, spotting the codes and tropes of ideology. This was the profoundly democratic impulse in Hall’s thinking. Hall’s work attracted the so-called new social movements without losing focus on capitalism and its perils and discontents—inequality and chaos in the global economy, or reckless consumerism in a fragile planet, or Western arrogance and militarism. His stinging critique of Tony Blair was entitled ‘Son of Margaret’. Just last year he published in Soundings the ‘Kilburn Manifesto’ in which he and his co-authors (Mike Rustin and Doreen Massey) offered a comprehensive demolition of neo-liberal ideology, a trenchant critique of ‘post-New Labour’ and a visionary grasp of the new agenda of a renewed left.’ Read more

Tariq Ali: ‘..his message was clear. If you want change, get off your backsides and challenge the existing order, but also think, argue, debate as to best way forward.’ Read more

Adam Elliot-Cooper: ‘Hall should be remembered not just for being a successful black academic, but as an individual who took on the establishment and inspired such widespread support that he couldn’t be ignored.’ Read more

Tracey Jensen: ‘We must interrupt – and keep interrupting – the crystallisation of ‘commonsense’ ideas about welfare. The populist authoritarianism that is incited by poverty porn, and apparently licensed by such ‘public opinion’ polls, must be resisted. Hall’s project to map the production of consent and the structuring of social knowledge has never been more urgent than now.’ Read more

Ben Carrington: ‘In gratitude to Stuart Hall, a socialist intellectual who taught us to confront the political with a smile’ Read more

Jo Littler: ‘He showed us how collaborative work can make us more than careerist junkies, can create something more than the sum of our parts’ Read more

Jeremy Gilbert ‘[..] Stuart’s method, bringing together sociology, ideology critique, semiotics, political sociology and necessary speculation that would prove very often the only way to address the key question which mattered to them and to me: the question of which power relationships were shaping our lives [..]’ Read more

Photo credits

  1. Chinese tribute, kindly sent in by Lawrence Grossberg.
  2. Iranian tribute, kindly sent in by Lawrence Grossberg.
  3. Scanned from Lawrence & Wishart office, unknown photographer.
  4. Pete Ayrton, Stuart Hall and Lynne Segal, at Latin Quarter gig, mid-80s, taken by James Swinson.
  5. Stuart Hall manning the crèche at the first Women’s conference at Ruskin College, Oxford, in 1970. Photos of the Ruskin conference by Sally Fraser (now Chandan Fraser)’.