Is Stuart Hall a Cultural Studies Scholar or a Postcolonial Scholar? Or is it better to engage with his work as an intellectual of both fields?
Postwar Britain witnessed the concurrent evolution of two new intellectual movements which have since become institutionalized as two major academic fields of enquiry; Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies. Although both fields are enormously diverse they have developed a parallel focus around the place of individuals in terms of race, ethnicity, class and gender.
Beyond Britain offers a history of the major ideas that have shaped the evolution of a shared space of inquiry in British Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies. It uses the work of Stuart Hall, a figure a uniquely well positioned in both fields, to offer a rich cultural-historical study of the evolution of both movements. It argues that the questions which both movements have continued to preoccupy themselves, are as relevant today as they were when they first originated, which was also a moment of challenging a conformist, exclusivist, and self-sufficient nation’s view of itself.
Introduction: The Evolution of Postcolonial Studies and British Cultural Studies/ 1 National Culture and the Origins of British Cultural Studies/ 2 Intellectual Influences: Marxist Debates and Commonwealth Critiques/ 3 Antonio Gramsci: Bridging the Gap Between Postcolonial Studies and Cultural Studies/ 4 Subaltern Studies and Cross Cultural Approaches/ 5 Talking about the Caribbean: Terminology, Postcolonial Theory and Cultural Studies/ Conclusion: The Legacy of Stuart Hall/Bibliography/Index
Lars Jensen is associate professor of cultural encounters in the Department of Culture and Identity at Roskilde University in Denmark. He is author of Unsettling Australia: Readings in Australian Cultural History (Atlantic, 2010) and co-editor of A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures: Continental Europe and its Empires (Edinburgh University Press, 2008), Postcolonialising the Nordic (Ashgate, 2012) and the forthcoming collection Crisis in the Nordic Nations and Beyond (Ashgate 2014).
This is an incisive study of the relationship between two of paradigm-shifting fields of enquiry to emerge from the second-half of the 20th century: Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies. Lars Jensen presents a compelling analysis of the disciplining of the fields of scholarship, locating each in its specific history of institutionalisation and political and ideological orientation, while demonstrating the ways in which the fields developed a parallel focus around the place of the individual in terms of race, ethnicity, class and gender. The figure of Stuart Hall looms large, providing the intellectual structure for a comparative study as well as acting as a political barometer for the struggle by a Black British intellectual moving between Britain and the Caribbean. An original and provocative book that explains the continuing value of critiquing power and disciplinary practices.
This book is both timely and untimely. It positions Stuart Hall––one of the major public intellectuals of his age, and already sorely missed––at the cusp of British Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies. The first is a field with which Hall came, perhaps too narrowly, to be identified; the second is a field with which he probably deserves to be identified more. Lars Jensen does a fine job in showing how these two fields have operated in dialogue with one another, even if that dialogue has not always been registered or recognized. In placing Hall at the centre of the conversation, Jensen does honour to him while reflecting closely, as he did, on the fundamental but potentially productive instability of our times.
Jensen serves up a smart, provocative examination of the reasons why cultural studies and postcolonial studies should have joined forces -- intellectually and politically -- long ago, but never did. This is an important book for anyone interested in the history and politics of either of these vital projects.