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This letter takes up Stuart Hall’s engagement with “identity” from the end of the 1980s onward. It suggests that, like “contingency,” Hall’s relation to the idea of identity was an organic one; he talked about identity as though he understood the conundrum from the inside. The letter points to two dimensions of the conjuncture in which the problem of identity emerged: on the one hand, “New Times,” described in terms of a post-Fordist reorganization of capitalism, that witnessed a general sense of fragmentation of identity; and, on the other, the emergence of the post-Windrush generation of blacks in Britain who, in artistic and intellectual ways, began to rethink the relation between blackness and Englishness. Against this backdrop the letter reads Hall’s essay “Minimal Selves,” in which he speaks autobiographically about the context of his “discovery-recovery” of himself as black, and the implications for thinking a politics of identity.

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