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Academics discuss the legacy of Stuart Hall at online festival of research

Academics across the Higher Education sector discuss the legacy of esteemed cultural theorist Stuart Hall at first-of-its-kind School of Arts & Social Sciences (SASS) Online Festival of Research.

by Matthew Little (Communications Officer)

The two-day programme titled the ‘SASS Online Festival of Research’, invited the post-graduate community at City, University of London, to learn about the research taking place across the University and hear first-hand from world-leading academics in interdisciplinary panel discussions.

Organised in partnership between the Department of Music and the Department of Sociology, the festival saw leading academics discuss authoritarian populism and the legacy of cultural theorist Stuart Hall (1932-2014).

Stuart Hall, cultural theorist
Stuart Hall. Photograph by Eamonn McCabe / Camera Press / Redux

Stuart Hall was a Jamaican born British cultural theorist and political activist. He was a pivotal figure in the Black Arts Movement and was educated at Oxford University before he began teaching at Birmingham University and the Open University.

The discussion was chaired by City’s Professor Sylvia Walby OBE, Director of the Violence and Society Centre.

The panel included Chris Rojek, Professor of Sociology; Dr Ian Pace, Head of the Department of Music; Dr Jessica Evans, of the Open University; Dr Ajmal Hussain of the University of Manchester and Jim McGuigan, Professor of Cultural Studies at Loughborough University.

Hall’s influences on the Back Lives Matter (BLM) protests

Professor Rojek gave an introduction on the life of Stuart Hall and his career, which he divided into several distinct periods.

Dr Pace argued that Hall himself could not avoid populism, as a result of his gradual move away from socialists who were sceptical about the way working class people consume culture.

“Populism apposes pluralism, it allows only one type of popular will. That is necessary to the construction, and so it is hostile to minority voices."

Dr Ian Pace, Head of the Department of Music.

Speaking about Hall’s work he added that: “Throughout all the discussions about populism, what is missing is the voices of those who enforce it. My concern is that Hall’s later work does not offer any alternative to that – what can oppose what will become a majority view?”

SASS Online Festival of Research SASS Online Festival of Research

Dr Hussain praised Hall for his crucial role in influencing race theory in Europe.

“Hall is a coming together of time and place. We can’t leave a discussion like this without thinking what would he think of today,” Dr Hussain said.

“Towards the last decade of his life many would ask when might we be in another conjuncture. Although perhaps now we are in a moment where we can view popular politics and BLM merging into solidarity,” he continued.

Dr Jessica Evans, who worked with Hall on Masters courses at the Open University, said: “The eruption of the BLM protests has been for the most part incredibly positive.

“BLM has galvanised a whole generation of young people much like Climate Change did and they are engaging with a lot of theories that Hall has influenced.”

Dr Jessica Evans, Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Media Studies at the Open University.

Other presentations and debates included talks on analytical approaches to how choirs understand their conductors, urban studies in cultural practices and social justice, how media coverage of Climate Change has affected policy change and more.

The SASS online Festival of Research was organised by academics across the School of Arts & Social Sciences.

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