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Stuart Hall (1932 - )

Related: media theory - cultural marxism - CCCS - culture theory - Cultural Studies

A socialist, in the 1950s he joined forces with E. P. Thompson, Raphael Samuel, Ralph Miliband, Raymond Williams and John Saville to launch two radical journals, The New Reasoner and the New Left Review. [Aug 2006]

In a well-known essay, Stuart Hall, director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) from 1969 to 1979, declares, “there is something at stake in cultural studies, in a way that I think, and hope, is not exactly true of many other important intellectual and critical practices. Here one registers the tension between a refusal to close the field, to police it and, at the same time, a determination to stake out some positions within it and argue for them. That is the tension….” --via http://grad.usask.ca/gateway/archive21.html


Stuart Hall is a cultural theorist from the United Kingdom. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1932. In 1951 he moved to Bristol where he lived before studying at Oxford University. He used to work at the University of Birmingham University where he was the leading light of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. He held a post with the Open University between 1979 and 1997.

Stuart Hall holds an MA from Merton College in Oxford. He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. He has contributed to key works on culture and media studies, as well as politics.

In the 1950s Stuart Hall joined E. P. Thompson, Raymond Williams and others to launch two radical socialist journals: The New Reasoner and the New Left Review. His career took off after co-writing The Popular Arts in 1964. As a direct result, Hall was invited by Richard Hoggart to join the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham.

In 1968 Stuart Hall became director of the unit at Birmingham University. He wrote a number of influential books in the years that followed, including: Situating Marx: Evaluations and Departures (1972), Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse (1973), and Policing the Crisis (1978).

After his appointment as a professor of sociology at the Open University in 1979, Hall published more influential books, including: The Hard Road to Renewal (1988), Resistance Through Rituals (1989), The Formation of Modernity (1992), Questions of Cultural Identity (1996) and Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1997). He retired from the Open University in 1997.

Hall's work covers issues of hegemony and cultural studies taking a post-Gramscian stance. He regards language use as within a framework of power, institutions and politics/ economics. This view presents people as producers and consumers of culture at the same time. Hegemony refers to the willingness of one social group to dominate and control other social groups.

Stuart Hall is 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 a text – be it a book or a movie – is not simply passively accepted by the audience, but there is an element of activity 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 reading of a text while others reject it.

These ideas are further developed in Hall's model of encoding and decoding of media discourses. The meaning of a text is located somewhere between the producer and the reader. Even though the producer encodes the text in a particular way, the reader will decode it in a slightly different manner. This line of thought is linked to social constructionism.

His works are widely accepted as influential, such as studies showing the link between racial prejudice and media. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Hall_%28cultural_theorist%29 [Aug 2004]

The Popular Arts (1964) Stuart Hall, Paddy Whannel

The Popular Arts (1964) Stuart Hall, Paddy Whannel
[FR] [DE] [UK]

In The Popular Arts, Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel ask "In what terms is it possible to establish even rough standards of judgment about this kind of music? " They'd just concluded a discussion of the workings of the youth music business in the U.K. and the U.S. and were searching for some sort of justification.

They decided that a time would come when such standards could be established. "It differs, " they wrote, "in character, but not in kind, from other sorts of popular music ... If we are unable to comment on its quality and to make meaningful distinctions, it is largely because we lack a vocabulary of criticism ... We need that vocabulary very much indeed now, since this is the area in which the new media are at play. " (Hall and Whannel, 1964, pp. 294-295)

Hall and Whannel were not the only ones in the mid-sixties who felt the "need " to make what they described as "meaningful distinctions " between light popular music (non-jazz music) that was insightful, artful, and even illuminating, and that which was useless and counterproductive.

At around the same time, in response to the various social movements which had recently gained force and momentum, young journalists who'd been swept up in those movements began to write about the kind of culture they loved while they were growing up: principally about music. Some members of the young, vulnerable, somewhat heedless audience Hall and Whannel had earlier observed were now college boys (and it was primarily boys) who could match their knowledge of high art and intellectual canons with anyone. They now decided that "their " own music (produced primarily by people who did not go to college and who made "meaningful distinctions " without regard to existing standards established by Europeans), could be canonized and that they were the ones who'd have to do it. -- Canonizing the Popular, Robin Markowitz, 1991 http://home.earthlink.net/~rmarkowitz/canon.html

Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Postwar Britain (1976) - Stuart Hall

Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Postwar Britain (1976) - Stuart Hall
[FR] [DE] [UK]

This book is a must read for students of fashion, subculture, identity, and pop culture. Although the style of writing and some of the conclusions read as somewhat "old-fashioned", it was ground-breaking work at the time, one of the first serious scholarly treatments of youth and pop culture. More importantly, many of its arguments are still very relevant and need to be reconsidered in contemporary literature. The collection also discusses many styles which are all but forgotten to a younger audience and the variety British styles in the 60s is an education in itself for people who often think of past decades as having a particular "look". Excellent sociological analysis blended with ethnographic description. --A reader from Newfield, amazon.com

Representation (1997) - Stuart Hall

Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (Culture, Media and Identities , Vol 2) - Stuart Hall (Editor) [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Representation - the production of meaning through language, discourse and image - occupies a central place in current studies on culture. This broad-ranging text offers a comprehensive outline of how visual images, language and discourse work as `systems of representation'.

Individual chapters explain a variety of approaches to representation, bringing to bear concepts from semiotic, discursive, psychoanalytic, anthropological, sociological, feminist, art-historical and Foucauldian models of representation. They explore representation as a signifying practice in a rich diversity of social contexts and institutional sites: the use of photography in the construction of national identity and culture; other cultures in ethnographic museums; fantasies of the racialized `Other' in popular media, film and image; the construction of masculine identities in discourses of consumer culture and advertising; and the gendering of narratives in television soap operas.

The book analyzes contested and critical questions of meaning, truth, knowledge and power in representation, and the relations between representation, pleasure and fantasy. Combining illustrative examples with activities and selected readings, accessible but not simplified, the book offers a unique resource for teachers and students in cultural studies and related fields as an introduction to this complex and central theme. --Book Description via Amazon.com

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