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									   Stuart Hall

       Lecture 7
  Beyond the Binaries
       COM 490
Professor Ralina Joseph

Midterm questions?

          Terms for the day
• Identity
• Minimal selves
• New ethnicities

                      Stuart Hall
• “Identity is not as
  transparent or
  unproblematic as we think.
  Perhaps, instead of thinking
  of identity as an already
  accomplished historical
  fact…we should think,
  instead of identity as a
  “production,” which is never
  complete, always in
  process, and always
  constituted within, not
  outside representation”
  (From “Cultural Identity and
  Cinematic Represenation).
              Background on Hall
• Leading figure in cultural studies today – no one else has had the
  same influence in the shaping of the field
• Hall's formative experiences took place in his native Jamaica and
  then when being educated at Oxford.
• Hall identifies with emancipatory, socialist politics.
• In Birmingham, during his Directorship of the seminal Centre for
  Contemporary Cultural Studies (which is now sadly defunct), Hall
  created a genuinely collaborative approach to the study of
  culture. In a series of publications in the 1970s, the Birmingham
  Centre changed the way in which social scientists think about
• In the 1980s Hall occupied the vanguard of criticism against the neo-
  conservative politics of Thatcherism and Reaganism. His
  passionate, principled attack on the New Right and his critique of
  authoritarian populism reached a readership well beyond the
  confines of the academy.
• His later work has moved on to the terrain of hybridity, identity, race
  relations, multiculturalism and the politics of difference. Hall argues
  that the media both reflects AND constructs our realities.
Minimal Self GoPost Responses

              “Minimal Selves”
• Written in 1987
• Begins by identifying himself as a migrant and as
  different from the majority of white British people. But
  instead of these two identities (the migrant and the
  different) causing him to feel other, they‟ve made him
  feel as though he‟s quintessentially “modern.”
• What he means: in Britain or in US cities influenced
  heavily by immigration, being “marginalized, fragmented,
  unenfranchized, disadvantaged, and dispersed” (114) is
  really no longer the margin but the center – or “the
  representative modern experience” (115).
• Identity, according to Hall, has always created people
  who are “Minimal Selves” – whose identities are multiple
  (remember K. Crenshaw‟s intersectionality) and not
  necessarily neatly wound together
           “Minimal Selves” cont.
• Unpack: “I was aware of the fact that identity is an invention from the
  very beginning, long before I understood any of this theoretically.
  Identity is formed at the unstable point where the „unspeakable‟
  stories of subjectivity meet the narratives of history, of a culture.
  And since he/she is positioned in relation to cultured narratives
  which have been profoundly expropriated, the colonized subject is
  always „somewhere else:‟ doubly marginalized, displaced always
  other than where he or she is, or is able to speak from” (115).
• His own questioning of the stability of identity initially resulted from
  his family‟s struggle to acknowledge their lower-middle class status
  and was later aided by his diasporic existence.
• “Black” itself is an unstable identity – identities are narratives
  (stories) and histories and not single, one-dimensional labels. Hall
  depicts identity‟s inherent instability by demonstrating, for example,
  that Blacks in Jamaica “learned” they were Black in a specific,
  politicized moment of the 1970s (i.e., a particular identity comes
  because of a history).

         “Minimal Selves,” cont.
• In addition to identity coming from specific historical
  experiences, Hall writes, “I believe it is an immensely
  important gain when one recognizes that all identity is
  constructed across difference and begins to live with the
  politics of difference.” Unpack.
• When people use the term “identity” or place themselves
  within a pre-existing “identity group” that they are
  working off of an imagined and constructed set of ideas
  – a fiction. This is not to say that these fictions of identity
  don‟t have real, tangible effects on our lives.
• He goes on to state how a “recognition of difference, of
  the impossibility of „identity‟ in its fully unified meaning,
  does, of course, transform our sense of what politics is
  about” (117).
    Goal of imagining ourselves as
           “Minimal Selves”
• Transformative politics – a type of politics where
  although we‟re conscious of our own subject positions –
  as a woman, as an immigrant, as Asian American, etc. –
  we‟re able to move beyond those positions to work for
  social change. Hall writes that this is particularly
  important in struggles of nationalism.
• Identities are not “armor-plated against other identities”
  or are “not tied to fixed, permanent, unalterable
  oppositions” – in other words, identities are not
  binaries/dualisms or antagonistic.
• We have to return to the point that Hall describes where
  one‟s understanding of identity is initially instinctual, and
  fight against life experiences (which ask one to choose)
  which erase that early clarity and instead work towards
  proving the natural-ness of a monolithic identity – or
  force us towards easy dualisms. We have to work              10
  towards understanding ourselves as “minimal selves.”
                 “New Ethnicities”
• Continuing to complicate questions of identity, in “New Ethnicities,”
  (written in 1992), Hall again describes “Black” as a constructed
• Begins his essay by describing shift in black cultural politics, or
  rather “two phases of the same movement” (163). The first moment
  was when the term “black” (like “people of color” in the US) was
  embraced to talk about collective racism – this naming helped to
  create organizations and resistance. The problem was that, like
  Kimberle Crenshaw writes about with traditional feminist
  organizations, one identity became hegemonic.
• [quick hegemony moment: comes from Antonio Gramsci, an Italian
  (1891-1937), was a leading Marxist thinker. Gramsci used the term
  hegemony to denote the predominance of one social class over
  others (e.g. bourgeois hegemony). This represents not only political
  and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to
  project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are
  subordinated by it accept it as 'common sense' and 'natural'.
  Commentators stress that this involves willing and active consent].

        “New Ethnicities,” cont.
• Part of the problem was seeing “Black” identity as simply
  other than white identity. This meant marginalization or
  stereotyping. But Hall also points out that the insertion
  of “positive” Black stereotypes, simply the opposite of the
  negative ones is just as bad. Why? For example, what‟s
  wrong with model minority myth?
• So he sees a change from this moment as “a change
  from a struggle over the relations of representation to a
  politics of representation itself” (163).
• Creates an end to an “essential black subject.” This
  means “the recognition of the extraordinary diversity of
  subjective positions, social experiences, and cultural
  identities which compose the category „black‟; that is, the
  recognition that „black‟ is essentially a politically and
  culturally constructed category, which cannot be
  grounded in a set of fixed transcultural or transcendental
  racial categories and which therefore has no guarantees
  in Nature” (166).                                         12
• “What is involved is the splitting of the notion of ethnicity
  between, on the one hand, the dominant notion which
  connects it to nation and „race‟ and , on the other hand,
  what I think is the beginning of a positive conception of
  the ethnicity of the margins, of the periphery. That is to
  say, a recognition that we all speak form a particular
  place, out of a particular history, out of a particular
  experience, a particular culture, without being contained
  by that position as „ethnic artists‟ or filmmakers. We are
  all, in that sense, ethnically located and our ethnic
  identities are crucial to our subjective sense of who we
  are. But this is also a recognition that this is not an
  ethnicity which is doomed to survive, as Englishness
  was, only by marginalizing, dispossessing, displacing,
  and forgetting other ethnicities. This precisely is the
  politics of ethnicity predicated on difference and
  diversity” (169-170).
Goal of imagining “New Ethnicities”
• To point out the diversity of “black” – and show
  that not all black people are good and not all
  black people are the same.
• Just because something is “Black,”[or done by
  people of color] doesn‟t mean that it‟s
  progressive. Have to look at separate histories,
  stories, and experiences of class, gender,
  sexuality and ethnicity (167).
• Leaving behind the essential black subject
  makes way for “a critical politics, a politics of
  criticism” (166). Wants a new politics of
  representation – becomes an intersectional
  politics as the example (e.g., looks at racism
  together with sexuality).
     Ethnicity instead of Race
• Hall calls for use of the word “ethnicity” in
  order to acknowledge “ the place of
  history, language, and culture in the
  construction of subjectivity and identity, as
  well as the fact that all discourse is placed,
  positioned, situated, and all knowledge is
  contextual” (168). He also contests the
  term ethnicity – have to look at historically.
• “Race” seen as singular, fixed, rooted in

       Review Exercise: applying
     Black.White to major concepts
•   Count off by 7s
•   1: representation
•   2: racial formation
•   3: gender construction
•   4: possessive investment in whiteness
•   5: optional ethnicity
•   6: intersectionality
•   7: minimal selves/new ethnicities

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