Stuart Hall and Caribbean Studies

11 February 2014

The staff of UCL-Institute of the Americas are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Stuart Hall (3 February 1932 – 10 February 2014). Although his work has had a profound effect on studies of the Caribbean, Stuart Hall had reservations at being described as 'a Caribbean intellectual'. At a conference held in his honour in his native Jamaica in 2004, he confessed, 'My work has not been largely about the Caribbean. I have not been actively present in the enormously important work of trying to write the history of the Caribbean and Caribbean societies in the period of independence ... I am Caribbean in the most banal sense, in the sense that I was born here'. Yet while Hall rejected the 'naturalistic logic' implicit in the designation ('he was born here, so he must be a Caribbean intellectual'), he acknowledged that 'although in many moments of my life I have been thinking about what many people in the Caribbean would think of as other problems, other places, other dilemmas, it seems to me I have always been doing so through what I can only call the prism of my Caribbean formation'.

This Caribbean formation, his experience as a 'colonial subject', his sense of 'dislocation and displacement' – both from the society in which he was born and from the society to which he, along with many of his generation, migrated - fundamentally inform the central themes of Hall's work – themes of migration and identity, diaspora and displacement, race and racism, culture and subjectivity, 'post-colonialism' and power, globalisation and the meanings of modernity.  Through this formation, Hall developed profound insights into the experience of diaspora, and in particular the complex cultural processes at work in the diasporas of the 'Black Atlantic'. Formulations now taken for granted – the fluidity of identities, the interactions of 'here' and 'there', the extension of cultural borders beyond the nation state – all owe a debt to Hall's lucid articulation of diasporic consciousness informed, but never limited by, the Caribbean prism he acknowledged in the 'homecoming' conference of 2004. For those who study the Caribbean, Hall's place among the greats is assured.