Stuart Hall's Voice: Intimations of an Ethics of Receptive Generosity
David Scott is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of a number of books, including Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice and Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment, and is the editor of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, all also published by Duke University Press.
Responsiveness to the Present: Thinking through Contingency
This letter is concerned with the sense in which Stuart Hall was consummately oriented toward a responsiveness to the present rather than to abstract theoretical issues. It aims to show the role of “contingency” in his thinking and acting, especially its relation to his idea of a “conjuncture.” The idea of contingency, it is suggested, is especially fruitful to think with because it brings into view the idea of “intervention” as Hall’s signature style of intellectual action, and therefore also the role of the “essay” (as opposed to the monograph) as his signature writing form. The essay is the nonfictive literary form that best embodies the ethos and style of Hall’s voice. Against the background of this discussion the letter then engages one of Hall’s best-known essay interventions, “The Great Moving Right Show,” his influential analysis of the rise of Margaret Thatcher, and his critique of the Left’s failure to properly appreciate the new Right that brought her to power.