• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

'This is the most lucid and engaged account of Stuart Hall's work. Meticulously, and with an exemplary generosity, Helen Davis patiently unravels the threads of Hall's intellectual history. The result is a most useful and thoughtful book, which could prove to be indispensable for students of cultural studies' - Graeme Turner, University of Queensland Understanding Stuart Hall traces the development of one of the most influential and respected figures within cultural studies. Focusing on Stuart Hall's writings over a period of nearly fifty years, this volume offers students and academics a cogent and exploratory route through complex and overlapping areas of analysis. In her critical assessment of Hall's most important contributions to academic and public debate, Davis shows the extent to which his analyses of race and ethnicity have been informed by early studies of Marxism, class and 'societies structured in dominance'. Davis offers fresh insight into the formation of one of the most prolific, charismatic and controversial intellectuals of his generation. Despite having been branded a 'cultural pessimist', Stuart Hall has long been associated with encouraging new, cutting-edge scholarship within the field. This volume concludes with a discussion of Hall's most recent political and academic interventions and his continuing commitment to innovation within the visual arts.

Wrestling with the Angels
Wrestling with the angels

But my own experience of theory – and Marxism is certainly a case in point – is of wrestling with the angels – a metaphor you can take as literally as you like. (Hall, 1992: 279)


Hall has stated clearly that his entry into cultural studies from the New Left was never synonymous with a straightforward Marxist position. This is precisely because the New Left ‘regarded Marxism as a problem, as trouble, as danger, not as a solution’ (1992: 278). He rejects absolutely the idea that British cultural studies and Marxism were an exact and inevitable ‘fit’. Hall goes even further in his characterisation of his own theory:

I remember wrestling with Althusser. I remember looking at the idea of ...

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