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Stuart Hall


DisciplinesSociology > Stuart Hall

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Stuart Hall (1932-) is a cultural theorist who has been particularly influential in influencing racial thinking in the UK.

Black representation

Hall argues that the representation of the black subject has been through two phases. The first was a challenge of the racist stereotype and asserting a positive black identity. This was typically through recovery of a lost African history in which an essential core is found. In the second phase, the black subject is considered to be produced inside 'regimes of representation'.

He shows how cultures grow nest within one another, for example in how a black person in Martinique inserts the black culture into the French culture, thus creating an oscillation between the Other and unity.

Media power

Hall was concerned with media power, including how it propagates social values.

"The mass media play a crucial role in defining the problems and issues of public concern. They are the main channels of public discourse in our segregated society".

In 1971 he made an influential appearance on BBC television where he criticized media portrayal of blacks.

"There is something radically wrong with the way black immigrants - West Indians, Asians, Africans-are handled by and presented on the mass media"

He noted how blacks appeared on TV often in racially stereotyping positions, despite liberal assumptions and discussions by broadcasters.

"When blacks appear in the documentary/current affairs part of broadcasting, they are always attached to some 'immigrant issue': they have to be involved in some crisis or drama to become visible actors to the media."

"There has been little, attempt either in drama, documentary or features to explore and express the rich, complex, diverse and troubled experience of blacks."


In his search for black identity, Hall has studied the whole sphere of identity in some detail, pulling together diverse strands to create cohesive understanding.


Hall use structuralist thinking in its use of signifying as central to racism, that meanings of race are constructed within signifying practices through relations of difference. He also notes that differences are not simple and may appear as analogue variables.

He aligns with Lacan in perceiving the power and centrality of language in creating the subject.

His views generally have a deep historical theme and he uses 'diaspora', which originally was used to describe the dispersion of the Jews from Palestine, to describe the enforce spread of African people across the world.

See also

Life histories, Subject, Identity is..., Ethnicity and identity

Hall, S. (1977). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, 1997.



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