Now we’d like to take a few minutes to pay tribute to scholar Stuart Hall. He was widely known and respected in academic circles as the godfather of multiculturalism. He died this week in England at the age of 82. Born in Jamaica, he studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar.
There he became a trailblazer in the field of cultural studies, and because his ideas about race and gender became so influential, we wanted to take a closer look at his life and his work. So we’ve called Mark Anthony Neal. He is a professor of African and African-American studies at Duke University. And he’s with us once again. Welcome back to the program. Thanks so much for joining us.
MARK ANTHONY NEAL: Oh, no problem, Michel.
MARTIN: So for people who’ve never heard of Stuart Hall, particularly the non-academics among us, what’s the most important thing to know about him?
NEAL: He was a big thinker and really bridged the gap between thinking seriously about the everyday lives of peoples, particularly in terms of popular media and popular culture. He was a fellow at the University of Birmingham in 1964 at their Center of Cultural Studies. Eventually, he would head the Center of Cultural Studies there. And it was with his ideas as a Jamaican immigrant trying to find his own space in Britain looking at popular culture, looking at vernacular culture.
He began to write about ideas that really connected culture to politics in ways that we hadn’t seen before. When you think about figures like Cornel West or Michael Eric Dyson, in many ways, they’re not legible or visible to us without the influence of a figure like Stuart Hall.
MARTIN: A documentary about him just premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival. He tells some kind of painful stories about his own early life and some formative things. Can you just tell us a little bit about it?