Sociologist and public intellectual Stuart Hall, who helped shape conversations about race and gender in Britain and around the world, has died at 82. For decades, the Jamaican-born Hall was also a fixture in leftist politics.
Hall, who died in England on Monday, was diabetic and had been ill for some time.
NPR’s Neda Ulaby filed this report for our Newscast unit:
“When Stuart Hall came on the scene in the mid-1960s, the study of culture, and popular culture in particular, was not taken very seriously. Hall helped change that. He was dubbed the ‘godfather of multiculturalism’ for the huge influence he had on academics around the world.
“Cultural studies had been around before Stuart Hall. But he brought to it a perspective based on his background in the West Indies’ ferociously striated society.
“His mixed-race bourgeois parents forbade him from making friends with darker skinned children. Hall left for Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and later taught at Birmingham University, which he turned into a world renowned magnet for cultural studies.
“Hall’s work considered how people are taught to understand each other in terms of race and class, gender and sexual orientation. In a notoriously combative field, Stuart Hall was revered for his commitment to exploring questions of equality, identity and social mobility.”
Hall was also an influential thinker about politics, particularly in the 1970s and ’80s. In that period, he frequently wrote for Marxism Today — even coining the term “Thatcherism” in a 1979 article, according to Britain’s The Telegraph.
“The Conservative leader had been patronized by many on the Left as little more than a shrill housewife,” the newspaper says. “Hall was one of the first to acknowledge that Britain was entering a new era of politics.”
Writing about Hall’s legacy for The Guardian, Stuart Jeffries notes that the scholar, who for years appeared on the BBC, viewed his presence in England in a way that might have surprised some. Jeffries quotes Hall:
” ‘Three months at Oxford persuaded me that it was not my home,’ he told the Guardian in 2012. ‘I’m not English and I never will be. The life I have lived is one of partial displacement. I came to England as a means of escape, and it was a failure.’ ”
In her report for Newscast, Neda also notes that a new documentary about the late professor, titled The Stuart Hall Project, just received its U.S. premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Here’s the trailer for that film, which sees Hall in part through his love for jazz: