Stuart Hall and the Politics of Education

  • Henry A. Giroux


Over the last forty years, Stuart Hall, the prominent British cultural studies theorist, has produced an impressive body of work on the relationship between culture and power, and culture’s formative role as a political and educational practice produced and mediated within different social contexts, spatial relations, and historical conjectures.1 Refusing to confine culture to narrow epistemological categories, the exclusive study of texts, or to matters of taste, Hall argues that cultural power is what distinguishes cultural studies from other disciplines and academic areas.2 Cultural politics in his view “combin[es] the study of symbolic forms and meanings with the study of power,” or more specifically what he calls the “insertion of symbolic processes into societal contexts and their imbrication with power.”3 According to Hall, culture is central to understanding struggles over meaning, identity, and power. He has written extensively on the importance of the political force of culture and the diverse ways in which culture deploys power to shape identities and subjectivities within a circuit of practices that range from the production and distribution of goods and representations to an ever growing emphasis on regulation and consumption.4


Cultural Study Public Pedagogy Public Sphere Popular Culture Cultural Politics 
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  1. 1.
    An excellent bibliography of Stuart Hall’s work can be found in a collection of his writings compiled by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen: Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge, 1996).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Stuart Hall cited in Julie Drew, “Cultural Composition: Stuart Hall on Ethnicity and the Discursive Turn,” Journal of Composition Theory 18:2 (1998), p. 184.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Hall elaborates his theory of culture best in a series of books designed for the Culture, Media, and Identities Series at Open University and published by Sage in the United States. See, for example, Stuart Hall, Paul du Gay, Linda Janes, Hugh Mackay, and Keith Negus, Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1997);Google Scholar
  4. Stuart Hall, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1997);Google Scholar
  5. Stuart Hall, “The Centrality of Culture: Notes on the Cultural Revolutions of Our Time,” in Kenneth Thompson, ed., Media and Cultural Regulation (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1997).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For an excellent analysis of Stuart Hall’s work, see Lawrence Grossberg, “History, Politics, and Postmodernism: Stuart Hall and Cultural Studies,” Bringing It All Back Home: Essays on Cultural Studies (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 174–194. See also Morley and Chen, eds., Stuart Hall. Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Harold Bloom, The Western Canon (New York: Riverhead Books, 1994);Google Scholar
  8. Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998);Google Scholar
  9. Richard Rorty, “The Inspirational Value of Great Works of Literature,” Raritan 16:1 (1996), pp. 8–17;Google Scholar
  10. Todd Gitlin, Twilight of Our Common Dreams (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1995).Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    Lawrence Grossberg, “Identity and Cultural Studies. Is That All There Is?” in Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, eds., Questions of Cultural Identity (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1996), p. 102.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Lawrence Grossberg, “Toward a Genealogy of the State of Cultural Studies,” in Gary Nelson and Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, eds., Disciplinarity and Dissent in Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge, 1996), p. 142.Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    Stuart Hall, “Race, Culture, and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies,” Rethinking Marxism 5:1 (Spring 1992), pp. 17–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 11.
    I critique the conservative attack on political correctness in Henry A. Giroux, Fugitive Cultures (New York: Routledge, 1996), esp. pp. 165–184.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    Matthew Arnold, “Sweetness and Light,” in The Complete Prose of Matthew Arnold, Vol. 5, ed. R. H. Super (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960–1977), p. 113.Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    See Gitlin, Twilight of Our Common Dreams; Michael Tomasky, Left for Dead: The Life, Death and Possible Resurrection of Progressive Politics in America (New York: Free Press, 1996);Google Scholar
  17. Jim Sleeper, The Closest of Strangers (New York: Norton, 1990).Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Judith Butler, “Merely Cultural,” Social Text 15:52–53 (Fall/Winter, 1997), p. 266.Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    Francis Mulhern, “The Politics of Cultural Studies,” journal title 47:3 (July 1995), pp. 31–40.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    See Ian Hunter, Rethinking the School (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  21. This position is also argued for in Tony Bennett, “Out in the Open: Reflections on the History and Practice of Cultural Studies,” Cultural Studies 10:1 (1996), pp. 133–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. A particularly telling but theoretically sloppy version of this position can be found in Maria Koundoura, “Multiculturalism or Multinationalism?” in David Bennett, ed., Multicultural States (New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 69–87. Most of these critics appear to have little or no knowledge of the long history of debates within American educational circles over issues of reproduction, resistance, and the politics of schooling.Google Scholar
  23. Koundoura is especially uninformed on this issue, citing one article to defend her attack on “border pedagogy.” For a review of the resistance literature, see Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux, Education Still Under Siege (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  24. An interesting critique of the work of Tony Bennett and Ian Hunter and the limits of governmentality as they apply it can be found in Toby Miller, Technologies of Truth (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998),Google Scholar
  25. and in Alan O’Shea, “A Special Relationship? Cultural Studies, Academia and Pedagogy,” Cultural Studies 12:4 1998, pp. 513–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Alan O’Shea, “A Special Relationship?” Another challenge to the governmentality model can be found in the brilliant article on pedagogy and cultural studies by Richard Johnson, “Teaching Without Guarantees: Cultural Studies, Pedagogy and Identity,” in Joyce Canaan and Debbie Epstein, eds., A Question of Discipline (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997), pp. 42–73.Google Scholar
  27. 35.
    One of the most incisive commentaries on the meaning and importance of Hall’s theory of articulation can be found in Lawrence Grossberg, “On Postmodernism and Articulation: An Interview with Stuart Hall,” Journal of Communication Inquiry 10:2 (Summer 1986), pp. 45–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 36.
    Stuart Hall and David Held, “Citizens and Citizenship,” in Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques, eds., New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s (London: Verso, 1990), pp. 173–188.Google Scholar
  29. 38.
    Herman Gray, Watching Race (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), p. 132.Google Scholar
  30. 40.
    John Beverly, “Pedagogy and Subalternity: Mapping the Limits of Academic Knowledge,” in Rolland G. Paulston, ed., Social Cartography (New York: Garland, 1996), p. 352.Google Scholar

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© Henry A. Giroux 2000

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  • Henry A. Giroux

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