Stuart Hall (cultural theorist)
3 February 1932 |
Kingston, Jamaica (then a colony of the United Kingdom)
|Institutions||University of Birmingham and Open University|
|Alma mater||Merton College (Oxford)|
|Known for||Articulation, oppositional decoding|
|Influences||Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Raymond Williams, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault|
Stuart Hall (born 3 February 1932, Kingston, Jamaica, then a British colony) is a cultural theorist and sociologist who has lived and worked in the United Kingdom since 1951. Hall, along with Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, was one of the founding figures of the school of thought that is now known as British Cultural Studies or The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. He was President of the British Sociological Association 1995-1997.
At the invitation of Hoggart, Hall joined the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University in 1964. Hall took over from Hoggart as director of the Centre in 1968, and remained there until 1979. While at the Centre, Hall is credited with playing a role in expanding the scope of cultural studies to deal with race and gender, and with helping to incorporate new ideas derived from the work of French theorists.
Hall left the centre in 1979 to become a professor of sociology at the Open University. Hall retired from the Open University in 1997 and is now a Professor Emeritus. British newspaper The Observer called him "one of the country's leading cultural theorists". He is married to Catherine Hall, a feminist professor of modern British history at University College London.
Stuart Hall was born into a middle-class Jamaican family of Indian and British descent. In Jamaica he attended a primary school modelled after the British primary school system. In an interview Hall describes himself as a "bright, promising scholar" in these years and his formal education as "a very 'classical' education; very good but in very formal academic terms." With the help of sympathetic teachers, Hall expanded his education to include "T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Freud, Marx, Lenin and some of the surrounding literature and modern poetry," as well as "Caribbean literature."
In 1951 Hall moved to England as part of the Windrush generation, the first large-scale immigration of West Indians, as that community was then known. He won a Rhodes Scholarship to Merton College at the University of Oxford, where he obtained an M.A..
In the 1950 and 60s, after working on the Universities and Left Review, Hall joined E. P. Thompson, Raymond Williams and others to launch the New Left Review in the wake of the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary (which saw many thousands of members leave the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and look for alternatives to previous orthodoxies). The same group, with Raphael Samuel, launched the Partisan Coffee House in Soho as a meeting-place for left-wingers. Hall's career took off after co-writing The Popular Arts with Paddy Whannel in 1964.
As a direct result, Richard Hoggart invited Hall to join the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. In 1968 Hall became director of the Centre. He wrote a number of influential articles in the years that followed, including Situating Marx: Evaluations and Departures (1972) and Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse (1973). He also contributed to the book Policing the Crisis (1978) and coedited the influential Resistance Through Rituals (1975).
After his appointment as a professor of sociology at the Open University in 1979, Hall published further influential books, including The Hard Road to Renewal (1988), Formations of Modernity (1992), Questions of Cultural Identity (1996) and Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1997). He retired from the Open University in 1997. Hall received the European Cultural Foundation's Princess Margriet Award in 2008.
Hall's work covers issues of hegemony and cultural studies, taking a post-Gramscian stance. He regards language-use as operating within a framework of power, institutions and politics/economics. This view presents people as producers and consumers of culture at the same time. (Hegemony, in Gramscian theory, refers to the cultural production of "consent" as opposed to "coercion".)
For Hall, culture is not something to simply appreciate or study, but a "critical site of social action and intervention, where power relations are both established and potentially unsettled."
Hall has become one of the main proponents of reception theory, and developed Hall's Theory of encoding and decoding. This approach to textual analysis focuses on the scope for negotiation and opposition on the part of the audience. This means that the audience does not simply passively accept a text — social control. Crime statistics, in Hall's view, are often manipulated for political and economic purposes. Moral panics (e.g. over mugging) could thereby be ignited in order to create public support for the need to "police the crisis"/ The media play a central role in the "social production of news" in order to reap the rewards of lurid crime stories.
Hall has also widely discussed notions of cultural identity, race and ethnicity, particularly in the creation of the politics of Black diasporic identities. Hall believes identity to be affected by history and culture, rather than a finished product, he sees it as ongoing production.
Hall's political influence extended to the Labour Party, perhaps related to the influential articles he wrote for the CPGB's theoretical journal Marxism Today (MT) which challenged the left's views of markets and general organisational and political conservatism. This discourse had a profound impact on the Labour Party under both Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair.
Encoding and decoding model 
Hall presented his encoding and decoding philosophy in various publications and at a several oral events across his career. The first was in "Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse" (1973), a paper Hall wrote for the Council of Europe Colloquy on ‘Training In The Critical Readings of Television Language’ organised by the Council & the Centre for Mass Communication Research at the University of Leicester. It was produced for students at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, which Paddy Scannell explains: “largely accounts for the provisional feel of the text and its ‘incompleteness’” (Scannell 2007, p. 211). In 1974 the paper was presented at a symposium on Broadcasters and the Audience in Venice. Hall also presented his encoding and decoding model in "Encoding/Decoding" in Culture, Media, Language in 1980. The time difference between Hall’s first publication on encoding and decoding in 1973 and his 1980 publication is highlighted by several critics. Of particular note is Hall’s transition from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies to the Open University.
Hall had a major influence on cultural studies, and many of the terms his texts set forth continue to be used in the field today. His 1973 text is viewed as marking a turning point in Hall's research, towards structuralism and provides insight into some of the main theoretical developments Hall was exploring during his time at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
Hall takes a semiotic approach and builds on the work of Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco. The essay takes up and challenges longheld assumptions on how media messages are produced, circulated and consumed, proposing a new theory of communication. “The ‘object’ of production practices and structures in television is the production of a message: that is, a sign-vehicle or rather sign-vehicles of a specific kind organized, like any other form of communication or language, through the operation of codes, within the syntagmatic chains of a discourse”.
According to Hall, “a message must be perceived as meaningful discourse and be meaningfully de-coded before it has an effect, a use, or satisfies a need”. There are four codes of the Encoding/Decoding Model of Communication. The first way of encoding is the dominant (i.e. hegemonic) code. This is the code the encoder expects the decoder to recognize and decode. “When the viewer takes the connoted meaning full and straight and decodes the message in terms of the reference-code in which it has been coded, it operates inside the dominant code”. The second way of encoding is the professional code. It operates in tandem with the dominant code. “It serves to reproduce the dominant definitions precisely by bracketing the hegemonic quality, and operating with professional codings which relate to such questions as visual quality, news and presentational values, televisual quality, ‘professionalism’ etc.” . The third way of encoding is the negotiated code. “It acknowledges the legitimacy of the hegemonic definitions to make the grand significations, while, at a more restricted, situational level, it makes its own ground-rules, it operates with ‘exceptions’ to the rule”. The fourth way of encoding is the oppositional (e.g. globally contrary) code also known the globally contrary code. “It is possible for a viewer for a viewer perfectly to understand both the literal and connotative inflection given to an event, but to determine to decode the message in a globally contrary way”. “Before this message can have an ‘effect’ (however defined), or satisfy a ‘need’ or be put to a ‘use’, it must first be perceived as a meaningful discourse and meaningfully de-coded”.
Hall challenged all four components of the mass communications model. It argued that (i) meaning is not simply fixed or determined by the sender; (ii) the message is never transparent; and (iii) the audience is not a passive recipient of meaning. For example, a documentary film on asylum seekers that aims to provide a sympathetic account of their plight, does not guarantee that audiences will decode it to feel sympathetic towards the asylum seekers. Despite its being realistic and recounting facts, the documentary form itself must still communicate through a sign system (the aural-visual signs of TV) that simultaneously distorts the intentions of producers and evokes contradictory feelings in the audience.
Distortion is built into the system, rather than being a "failure" of the producer or viewer. There is a "lack of fit" Hall argues "between the two sides in the communicative exchange". That is, between the moment of the production of the message ("encoding") and the moment of its reception ("decoding"). In "Encoding/decoding", Hall suggests media messages accrue a common-sense status in part through their performative nature. Through the repeated performance, staging or telling of the narrative of "9/11" (as an example; but there are others like it within the media) a culturally specific interpretation becomes not only simply plausible and universal, but is elevated to "common-sense".
Publications (incomplete) 
- Hall, S. (1960). “Crosland Territory”, New Left Review, no. 2, pp. 2–4.
- Hall, S & Anderson, P. (1961). “Politics of the Common Market”, New Left Review, no. 10, pp. 1–15.
- Hall, S. (1961). “The New Frontier”, New Left Review, no. 8, pp. 47–48.
- Hall, S. (1961). “Student Journals”, New Left Review, no. 7, pp. 50–51.
- Hall, S. (1968). The Hippies: An American Moment. Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
- Hall, S. (1971). Deviancy, Politics and the Media. Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
- Hall, S. (1971). “Life and Death of Picture Post”, Cambridge Review, vol. 92, no. 2201.
- Hall, S & Walton, P. (1972). Situating Marx: Evaluations and Departures. London: Human Context Books.
- Hall, S. (1972). “The Social Eye of Picture Post”, Working Papers in Cultural Studies, no. 2, pp. 71–120.
- Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse. Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
- Hall, S. (1973). A ‘Reading’ of Marx's 1857 Introduction to the Grundrisse. Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
- Hall, S. (1974). “Marx’s Notes on Method: A ‘Reading’ of the ‘1857 Introduction’”, Working Papers in Cultural Studies, no. 6, pp. 132-171.
- Hall, S. & Jefferson, T. (1977). Resistance Through Rituals, Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain. London: Hutchinson.
- Hall, S. (1977). “Journalism of the Air under Review”, Journalism Studies Review, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 43–45.
- Hall, S, Critcher, C, Jefferson, T, Clarke, J & Roberts, B. (1978). Policing the Crisis. London: Macmillan.
- Hall, S. (1979). 'The Great Moving Right Show', Marxism Today. January.
- Hall, S. (1980). "Cultural Studies: two paradigms". Media, Culture and Society. vol.2, pp. 57–72.
- Hall, S. (1981). "Notes on Deconstructing the Popular". In People's History and Socialist Theory. London: Routledge.
- Hall, S. & Scraton, P. (1981). "Law, Class and Control". In: Fitzgerald, M., McLennan, G. & Pawson, J. eds. Crime and Society, London: RKP.
- Hall, S. (1988). The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left. London: Verso.
- Hall, S. (1986). “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity”, Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 5–27.
- Hall, S & Jacques, M. (1986). “People Aid: A New Politics Sweeps the Land”, Marxism Today, July, pp. 10–14.
- Hall, S. (1992). "The Question of Cultural Identity". In: Hall, David Held, Anthony McGrew, eds, Modernity and Its Futures. Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 274–316.
- Hall, S. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- The Stuart Hall Library, Iniva's reference library at Rivington Place in Shoreditch, London is named after Stuart Hall, who was the chair of the board of Iniva for many years.
- Procter, James. (2004) Stuart Hall, Routledge Critical Thinkers.
- Schulman, Norman. "Conditions of their Own Making: An Intellectual History of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham." Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1993).
- Chen, Kuan-Hsing. "The Formation of a Diasporic Intellectual: An interview with Stuart Hall," collected in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen, eds: New York: Routledge, 1996.
- Radical Philosophy. "Stuart Hall: Culture and Power," Interview, November/December 1998 
- Tim Adams, "Cultural hallmark". Guardian News and Media Limited. The Observer. 22 September 2007.
- Kuan-Hsing, 1996, pp. 486-487.
- "Stuart Hall" by Caryl Phillips, BOMB 58/Winter 1997. Bombsite.
- Bishopsgate Institute Podcast: The Partisan Coffee House: Cultural Politics and the New Left. Mike Berlin, 11 June 2009
- Procter 2004, p. 2.
- Hall, S., et al. 1978. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. London: Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333-22061-7 (paperback) ISBN 0-333-22060-9 (hardbound).
- Scannell 2007, p. 211.
- Scannell 2007, p. 209.
- Proctor 2004, pp. 59-61.
- Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse. Birmingham: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, p. 1.
- Hall 1973, p. 16.
- Hall 1973, p. 17.
- Hall 1973, p. 18.
- Procter 2004, pp. 59-61.
Further reading 
- Rutherford, Johnathan, ed. Identity:Community, Culture, Difference (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990, pp. 223–237, chapter entitled "Cultural Identity and Diaspora")
||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (October 2012)|
- John O'Hara interview with Stuart Hall for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Doubletake program, originally broadcast 5 May 1983: The Narrative Construction of Reality - Stuart Hall. Republished in centerforbookculture.org's "Context" online edition, No. 10. Retrieved on 2008-04-16.
- Mitchell, Don. Chapter 24: Stuart Hall. In: Key Thinkers on Space and Place. Phil Hubbard, Rob Kitchin, Gill Valentine (2004), pp. 160ff. ISBN 0-7619-4963-1. Retrieved on 2008-01-12. (Google Books)
- Marxist Media Theory
- A brief biography
- darkmatter Journal: Stuart Hall discussing globalization and power (2003, audio)
- darkmatter Journal: Stuart Hall in conversation with Les Back (2010, audio)
- Listing on the "people" section of Marxists.org
- Stuart Hall in conversation with Pnina Werbner, March 2006 (film)
|President of the British Sociological Association