Sunday, February 21, 2016

Supplemental Post #1: Interview with Stuart Hall, Thoughts on Cultural Studies

   Incredible profile of Stuart Hall - one of the pioneers of cultural studies at the Birmingham School, which engendered the academic exploration of "stars" and popular culture in the 1970s.

According to Hall, popular culture has to be examined for us to know what is "wrong" with a culture -- it seems that his relationship to texts is largely oppositional, and one that is directed towards extrapolating trajectories, trends and relationships. What I find most affirming is Hall's belief that cultural studies allows us to interrogate our own implications and gazes; it was never supposed to be a "smug academic activity." Culture is often a modulator for social imperatives -- it's a form of control. By engaging in discursive practices within ourselves, we can engage with our positions in the maintenance of the status quo. 

This profile is such a wonderful read because it covers the various fermentations that rocked the academic world, from Hall's own theoretical differences with "the greats" to how he had to shift the lens to this own presumptions when feminist theory came in to "crap on the table of cultural studies". 

Here are a few excerpts and some of my favorite quotes :) 

 "Nor does it do justice to how cultural studies was a vexed field, derided by traditionalist critics such as Harold Bloom as an intellectually irresponsible imposture, and riven from within by theoretical differences – struggles to deal with tricky things like Althusserian Marxism, Foucauldian power theory, Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis, post-Gramscian hegemony theory and that abiding threat to patriarchal power bases in universities, feminism. Hall, at least, could write about the impact of the last of these with superbly mordant self-criticism. In his paper Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies, Hall recalls the impact of feminist thought on cultural studies. "As the thief in the night, it broke in; interrupted, made an unseemly noise, seized the time, crapped on the table of cultural studies … Now that's where I really discovered about the gendered nature of power. Long, long after I was able to pronounce the words, I encountered the reality of Foucault's profound insight into the individual reciprocity of knowledge and power. Talking about giving up power is a radically different experience from being silenced.""
"Against the urgency of people dying in the streets, what in God's name is the point of cultural studies?... At that point, I think anybody who is into cultural studies seriously as an intellectual practice, must feel, on their pulse, its ephemerality, its insubstantiality, how little it registers, how little we've been able to change anything or get anybody to do anything. If you don't feel that as one tension in the work that you are doing, theory has let you off the hook."

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed that article! Thank you! I really like his quote about feminism coming into cultural theory and changing the game, especially in terms of power. I think the quote and him being self-reflexive and the ability of switching "lenses" speaks a lot to the evolving nature of studying culture, which is a living, breathing study.

    I read one of his articles a while ago called Reconstruction: Images of Post-War Black Resettlement, in which he discusses and breaks down images of immigrants coming to Britain and the images that were published about them. He also discusses the meaning of "documenting" events through photographs and the meanings and signifiers we put onto those images including their political implications on our humanism. Dick Hebdige also refers to him a lot in the Subculture: the meaning of style as the basis of terms and ideas of cultural theory as well as his work discussing British West Indie culture that inspired punk. Hebdige uses his ideas on "connotative codes" and hegemony, which this article references as Hall and the Birmingham school dealing with and culture and relating it to Gramscian hegemonic power. (Subculture is a really interesting read if you ever get the chance!)


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