Sociology

Assessing Racial Issues in Stuart Halls Work



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"What is this "black" in black popular culture?" in Social Justice By Stuart Hall. Spring-Summer 1993 v. 20, pp. 104-111.

One overall review of Hall's work is found in "Itinerary of a Thought: Stuart Hall, Cultural Studies, and the Unresolved Problem of the Relation of Culture to "Not Culture." in Cultural Critique By Janice Peck. 2001 v. 48.1, pp. 200-249.

Throughout his accomplished career, Stuart Hall has written on a variety of works as a cultural and political critic. According to Janice Peck, his works have provided a map for the "trajectory of cultural studies, from culturalism to structuralism to structuralist Marxism to poststructuralism and post-Marxism." Peck argues that Hall moves beyond a materialist theory while retaining the economism and idealism found in Marxist thought (p. 200). Hall has exchanged binary, dialectic interpretations of culture for multifaceted examinations of culture marked by concerns for globalization, postmodernism, cultural space and popular culture.

In his 1993 article, Stuart Hall presents a nuanced discussion of race and popular culture in Great Britain. The author places his critique of race relations and perceptions against a backdrop of British and world contemporary culture. He asks, "What sort of moment is this in which to pose the question of black popular culture?" The displacement of high culture, the emergence of the United States as a world power, the rise of postmodernism and the decolonization of the Third World frames Hall's analysis. Hall qualifies the previous statements by mentioning the ambiguities of popular and high culture, the uneven and contradictory influence of postmodernism, reactionaries who reject globalism and the continued struggle over cultural hegemony.

How does Hall address race in this context? He rejects universal, biological and univocal definitions of race. Black culture contains contradictions and tensions. Furthermore, Hall moves away from "simple binary operations" to embrace "deep questions here of culture transmission and inheritance, and of complex relations between African origins and the irreversible scatterings of the diaspora." Selective appropriation of European cultures is found in the same cultural space alongside African heritage. The tension between the two directions has led to linguistic innovations and physical expressions.

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