Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall on the ‘Terrifying Internal Fear of Living with Difference’
From the rise of authoritarian governments in Turkey and Brazil to the xenophobic push for Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s nightmare vision of immigration in the U.S., the politics of fear and repression are resurgent around the world.
If you’re looking to explore these reactionary trends in your classes, we encourage you to revisit the groundbreaking work of the late cultural theorist Stuart Hall.
Over the course of more than two decades, MEF had the privilege of collaborating with Hall on a range of videos about race, state violence, and what he called “the terrifying internal fear of living with difference.”
Today, these videos speak with newfound urgency to the rise of authoritarianism and the growing global backlash against multiculturalism.
According to MEF Executive Director Sut Jhally, Stuart Hall’s insights into fears of racial and cultural difference are more necessary than ever.
“Hall’s entire life’s work was an attempt to understand the cultural politics of race and racial anxiety that shaped Britain’s identity as an imperial power and later paved the way for right-wing Thatcherism in the ’80s,” said Jhally, who interviewed Hall for several MEF videos. “These videos give us an intellectual blueprint for understanding, resisting, and dismantling the forces of fear and repression that are on the march again today.”
You’ll find the full list of MEF videos featuring Stuart Hall below. In particular, we want to call your attention to The Last Interview: Stuart Hall on the Politics of Cultural Studies, Jhally’s final conversation with Hall shortly before his death in 2014. In the interview, Hall talks in depth about his breakthrough analysis in Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law & Order, a book widely regarded as one of the most important volumes ever published on race relations in Britain.
As debates about immigration, nationalism, and racism continue to escalate in Britain, the U.S., and around the world, we hope you’ll share Stuart Hall’s critical insights with your students.
Please take a minute to browse our entire collection of Hall videos below …
Stuart Hall offers an accessible and clarifying analysis of the social construction of race and racial difference. He explores how variations in people’s appearances come to be mistaken for essential differences. He traces how these misinterpretations function both to express and to reproduce dominant power relations. And he argues for more rigorous engagements with identity, representation, and contingency capable of acknowledging and respecting difference without essentializing it. An ideal introduction to how cultural studies intervenes in debates about race, representation, identity, and power.
In this interview conducted shortly before his death in 2014, Stuart Hall, one of the seminal figures in cultural studies, talks about his classic work Policing the Crisis, describes the political, symbolic, and material concerns that animated cultural studies in the 1970s, and offers a critical assessment of the field today. He then turns his attention to the always shifting terrain of race and identity in the United States and Britain, offering fascinating cultural and political insights into the presidency of Barack Obama and the 2012 Olympics in London. While Hall was physically ill for much of his later life, this final interview provides powerful testimony that his formidable intellect, sense of humor, and willingness to engage with the gritty realities of politics and power never deserted him. An absolutely essential resource for anyone interested in cultural studies.
Cultural theorist Stuart Hall offers an extended meditation on representation. Moving beyond the accuracy or inaccuracy of specific representations, Hall argues that the process of representation itself constitutes the very world it aims to represent, and explores how the shared language of a culture, its signs and images, provides a conceptual roadmap that gives meaning to the world rather than simply reflecting it. Hall’s concern throughout is the centrality of culture to the shaping of our collective perceptions, and how the dynamics of media representation reproduce forms of symbolic power.
In this re-mastered lecture from 1989, Stuart Hall provides an extraordinarily clear summary of the origins of cultural studies. Hall discusses the founding of cultural studies at the University of Birmingham, the field’s baseline concern with issues of symbolic representation and power, and how cultural studies ultimately gained an institutional foothold at the “frontiers of intellectual and academic life by testing the fine line between intellectual rigor and social relevance.” An excellent introduction to Hall’s work, and to the broader social, political, and economic concerns that have shaped cultural studies.
Stuart Hall is a foundational figure in the influential interdisciplinary field known as cultural studies. In this stimulating and eloquent four-hour interview, conducted by the literary journalist Maya Jaggi and directed by Mike Dibb, Hall reflects on his life and career, talking personally and in depth about the trajectory of his work and how it has intersected with broader political movements. In a conversation both intimate and sweeping in scope, Hall describes his migration from Jamaica to England, his immersion in left-wing politics in London, the influence of Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson on the evolution of his thought, and the context within which the early classic texts of cultural studies were written. Hall also shares his pessimism about the economic recession and his optimism about Barack Obama’s victory. Future analysis of Hall’s work, and of cultural studies in general, will need to take account of this fascinating and indispensable first-person account of his life and ideas. Broken into short sections to facilitate use in the classroom.