Stuart Hall – obituary

Stuart Hall – obituary

The Telegraph
London, England

Stuart Hall was a cultural theorist who coined the term ‘Thatcherism’ and profoundly influenced New Labour

Stuart Hall, who has died aged 82, came to Britain from his native Jamaica in 1951 and established himself as a leading cultural theorist and as a hero of the intellectual Left.

A trenchant critic of Thatcherism (a term he coined), Hall had a huge impact on the reconfiguration of Left-wing thinking that underpinned the rise of New Labour, while his contributions to the theory of “multiculturalism” entered the political mainstream.

Hall arrived in Britain from Jamaica on a Rhodes Scholarship to Merton College, Oxford, soon after the first wave of Windrush migrants from the Caribbean. He was thus able to witness the reaction of the motherland to its colonial subjects turning up on her doorstep, and the prejudice he encountered inspired him to become involved in politics.

After abandoning a PhD on Henry James in 1958, Hall became the founding editor of the New Left Review, which did much to open a debate about immigration and the politics of identity. He went on, with Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, to establish the first Cultural Studies programme at a British university in Birmingham in 1964. In 1979 he moved to the Open University as a Professor of Sociology and for nearly two decades his early morning broadcasts on BBC2 became compulsory viewing for any self-respecting socialist intellectual.

Hall first coined the word “Thatcherism” in a prescient article in Marxism Today in January 1979, four months before Margaret Thatcher herself entered Downing Street. The Conservative leader had been patronised by many on the Left as little more than a shrill housewife. Hall was one of the first to acknowledge that Britain was entering a new era of politics…

…Stuart McPhail Hall was born on February 3 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a middle class family which subscribed to what he called “the colonial romance”. His father, Herman, was the first non-white person to hold a senior position – chief accountant – with United Fruit in Jamaica. Both his parents had non-African components in their ancestry, though as he recalled: “I was always the blackest member of my family and I knew it from the moment I was born.”

Growing up in what he called the “pigmentocracy” of the colonial West Indies had a profound effect on Hall’s childhood and outlook. His mother forbade him from inviting black school friends home, even though to white eyes he was black himself. When his sister fell in love with a black medical student, their mother barred her from seeing him. As a result she suffered a mental breakdown…

Read the entire obituary here.

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