As you know, my last post was dedicated to Stuart Hall, likely the most significant international figure in the field of cultural studies, who died last week at the age of 82.
Lawrence (Larry) Grossberg, my doctoral advisor, has penned a moving tribute to Hall, his mentor, with whom he worked at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1968-1969. Here is an excerpt from the piece, which appeared this past Saturday on Truthout:
When I think of Stuart, I think of an expanding rich tapestry of relations, not of followers and acolytes, but of friends, students, colleagues, interlocutors, participants in various conversations, and anyone willing to listen, talk and engage. Stuart Hall was more than an intellectual, a public advocate for ideas, a champion of equality and justice, and an activist. He was also a teacher and a mentor to many people, in many different ways, at many different distances from his immediate presence. He talked with anyone and everyone, and treated them as if they had as much to teach him as he had to teach them.
Hall’s work was as much about the interpersonal—his kindness, charisma, and generosity—in other words, as it was about the many influential writings and lectures he produced over the course of his career.
I wish I’d had the chance to get to know Hall better. I had the privilege of sharing a meal with him once, in 1996, during my second year of graduate school. He was extraordinarily gracious and, indeed, patient, as I barraged him with what must have been dilettantish questions. Afterwards we shopped for books at a nearby used bookstore. I still have the copy of Erving Goffman’s Asylums that I happened to pick up that day; even now I associate the book more with Hall than with its author.
I also got to know Hall indirectly, through a study of the Birmingham Centre annual reports, which I conducted with my friend and colleague Mark Hayward. Hall’s imprint is all over those documents, and not only because he authored the bulk of them. In their inventory of daily life at the Centre one can plainly see Hall’s emphasis on the interpersonal—in the way the Centre’s working groups were organized; in the spirit of sharing that so defined its (as well as his own) intellectual modus operandi, and that had more than a little to do with cultural studies’ success; in the way Hall empowered students to collaborate in the production of a serious academic journal; and certainly more.
Larry’s tribute to Hall is also a call, too: for the American mainstream media to pay heed to such an influential figure, one whose passing has not received the attention it deserves; and for the American Left to embrace Hall’s legacy, a legacy defined not only by his towering intellect but, equally important, by his luminescent being-in-the-world.
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