Michèle and Armand Mattelart, authors of several books about sociology and communication theory, note in the book Histoire des théories de la communication (1997) that “Stuart Hall’s work on the ideological role of the communications media and the nature of that ideology represents an important step in constructing a theory capable of rebutting the precepts of U.S. functionalist analysis and establishing the basis for a different form of critical research into the communications media.” In other words, much of Hall’s intellectual work has focused on an analysis of popular culture and the study of how the elites wield power through the arts, literature and history in contemporary societies. From an essentially Marxist perspective, this renowned Jamaican intellectual has examined in depth how the communications media participate in and give continuity to these dynamics.
Hall was born in 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a humble family of African descent. He finished his primary studies in his home country and in 1951 he moved to Britain to study at Oxford University’s Merton College, thanks to a Rhodes scholarship. Influenced by thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci, Georg Lukács, Mikhail Bakhtin, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes and Jean-Paul Sartre, among many others, Hall and Paddy Whannel published the book The Popular Arts in 1964. The book emphasized the value of cultural work by marginalized classes and caught the attention of Richard Hoggart, who was then the director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary Culture at the University of Birmingham. Hall succeeded Hoggart in 1968. In the 1960s, he was also editor of the magazine New Left Review and in 1972, along with other academics, he created the journal Working Papers in Cultural Studies.
He directed the Center for the Study of Contemporary Culture at the University of Birmingham until 1979, the year he joined the sociology school at the Open University of England. He retired from the university in 1997 but remained a professor emeritus.
For Hall, culture is a space of intervention and social action in which power relationships are established and destabilized. Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to studying these ideas and describing them in important books such as The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left from 1988, Formations of Modernity: Understanding Modern Societies, an Introduction, published in 1992, Questions on Cultural Identity, from 1996, Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, which appeared in 1997, and Different in 2001. In addition to these books, he produced numerous articles, presentations on the communications media, and speeches presented around the world.
Stuart Hall continues to live in Britain with his wife, Professor Catherine Hall, and is a member of the British Academy and the Board of Directors of Runnymede Trust, an organization founded in 1968 to develop strategies to ensure healthy multi-ethnic coexistence and citizenship in Britain.
Author: Alfredo Nieves Moreno
Published: May 08, 2012.
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