In memoriam, indebted, we are
Briankle G. CHANG
A real loss is never really lost, remaining warm and fast as much or as little in the ceaseless return of our feeling the loss as in our being continually reminded of what without the loss might have been. A loss, if it is indeed real, will therefore not fail to be kept as a loss and hence, in keeping with this loss, will not lose what is mournfully felt to have been lost. In fact, it is always in the presence of what by now is absent, in our doleful awareness of what is missing, that our sense of loss returns, and it is in and through this sense of loss that what was once present and is now forever gone floods back to become our future, to become, that is, what, expectedly or not, shall await us in times to come. A real loss, to repeat, is no loss at all; it is our future.
The recent death of Stuart Hall is an immeasurable loss to us all. And the sadness caused by this loss is as deep and wide as our memory of him will be rich and long-lasting, forming a spectral space that stretches far beyond the community of those who knew and loved him, and in which his life and work will continue to stand as a true north in a manner few names associated with cultural studies are likely to match. I am grateful for having the opportunity to speak about him on this occasion, especially when there are so many others who are more qualified than I to do so and can do it in a much more illustrative manner. Out of my deep respect for Hall and all the individuals who have walked beside him over the years and have spoken about his passing at various venues, I wish to say right away that I have not had any extended interaction with him in person and thus would not be so presumptuous as to present myself as being capable of paying tribute to him in any uniquely knowledgeable manner. All I can hope to do here is to share some of my recollections of him and, on the basis of these impressions, to explain why his writings embody for me in a singular fashion a mode of cultural criticism that, in spite of, or precisely because of, the popularity and influence of what he has helped to establish, has all but been lost to the huge number of individuals who claim to work under the name of cultural studies.
Briankle G. Chang is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. He is the author of Deconstructing Communication: Subject, Representation, and Economies of Exchange (University of Minnesota Press, 1986) and the co-editor of Philosophy of Communication (MIT Press, 2012). He is also the Chinese translator of Le Monolinguisme de l’autre by Jacques Derrida (Editions Galilee, 1996).