Stuart Hall’s dialogical interventions
Stuart Hall was for five decades a key front figure for British Cultural Studies, and for the process that turned them from a local grouping sometimes called the “Birmingham School” to today’s global and vitally multifaceted transnational field of Cultural Studies. His committed thirst for insights rubbed off on students and colleagues across the world, and prevented Cultural Studies (unlike so many other once innovative currents) to solidify into a rigid dogmatism.
It is for several reasons impossible to pinpoint Stuart Hall’s position and main contribution to Nordic cultural studies. Nordic here means the part of North Europe that comprises Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, which have through history had lots of mutual links and also share certain political, social and cultural traits, including a share in a social-democratic tradition of rather peaceful welfare societies.
First, the Nordic region consists of five different countries, all with different sets of academic traditions and trajectories in cultural studies. I dare here only speak about the Swedish case, which may perhaps be justified by the fact that Sweden has almost twice as many inhabitants as any of its Nordic neighbours and is also culturally and geographically placed in the centre of the region. Second, the Hall reception differs widely between different disciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives. Third, his work has a particularly fluid and transient character that I will soon say more about.
But if I should in spite of these initial reservations say something on Hall’s Nordic influence, I think I would preliminarily identify three main dimensions.
Johan Fornäs is professor of media and communication studies at Södertörn University, Sweden; editor-in-chief of Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research (www.cultureunbound.ep.liu.se); and author of books such as Cultural Theory and Late Modernity (1995); Consuming Media: Communication, Shopping and Everyday Life (2007); Signifying Europe (2012); and Capitalism: A Companion to Marx’s Economy Critique (2013).