Stuart Hall, a celebrated Jamaican cultural theorist, has passed away at the age of 82, the Voice reports.
Hall had, in recent years, disappeared from the public eye due to various health problems, including kidney failure, the news site notes. Yet his admirers remained strong. Just last year, one such admirer, acclaimed director John Akomfrah, came out with a big-screen documentary The Stuart Hall Project.
“Stuart Hall was one of the few people of color we saw on television who wasn’t crooning, dancing or running … he was a kind of rock star for us [black teenage bookworms], a pop icon with brains whose very iconic presence on this most public of platforms—television—suggested all manner of ‘impossible possibilities,’ ” Akomfrah told The Voice.
Professor Gus John, another Caribbean intellectual, originally from Grenada, who currently is an associate professor of education and honorary fellow of the Institute of Education at the University of London, paid tribute to the older gentleman, calling him an “intellectual giant.”
“I have been hugely influenced by his work,” John told the Voice. “In the last half a century or so, he was an intellectual giant. His work on the state and its relationship with people has been very influential in our struggles. His work on culture and imperialism was powerful and influential. He is a huge loss to Britain and the world.”
“He was the Du Bois of Britain,” said Henry Louis Gates Gates Jr., editor-in-chief of The Root and the founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
Hall was born on Feb. 3, 1932, in Kingston, Jamaica, to a middle-class family. According to the Voice, Hall had long felt like an outsider, even in his own home, where he was “at least three shades darker” than the rest of his light-skinned family. “The first social fact I knew about myself,” Hall said at one point on the subject.
He went to Jamaica College, a prestigious all-male secondary school, before arriving in Britain in 1951 as a Rhodes scholar, under funding from the Jamaican government, to read English literature at Merton College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. He was an outlier once again, differing from the rest of his generation, who typically went to the country looking for menial work.
Hall eventually became a vital fixture in British sociology textbooks for his perceptive observations about culture, identity and race, which are still as applicable today as they were in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the Voice notes.
“What can I really say about this man? I am very sad to hear of his death,” Jamaican high Commissioner Aloun Ndombet-Assamba said. “His work and observations in the areas of cultural identity and society in the U.K. speaks for itself. At the time Hall came to Britain, most Jamaicans came to take up menial work. He came as a scholar. He offered Britain a different view of Jamaica, the learned side of Jamaica. He is a great loss to the Jamaican academic community.”