How Can Stuart Hall's Analysis of Identity Enable a More Critical Awareness of Cultural Experience?

How can Stuart Hall’s analysis of identity enable a more critical awareness of cultural experience?

In order to assess the contribution that Stuart Hall’s analysis of identity has had on enabling a more critical awareness of cultural experience, it is first necessary to define and illustrate exactly what is meant by this term ‘cultural experience.’ For the purpose of this essay, I shall take this term to mean the contribution that Stuart Hall’s work has made to our understanding of the culture and society we currently live in, and that which we have lived through over the last 40 or 50 years. Furthermore, I will explore the struggles and tribulations that Hall faced as a child and relate these to his later work. I shall go on to pay particular focus to the issues of identity, the influences Hall has had on other sociologists (notably Paul Gilroy), his idea of the black diaspora and the critiques he makes regarding culture before assessing what the overall contributions he made to society and our cultural awareness really are.

In order to fully understand the views and beliefs that Hall holds, it is imperative to explore his background and early life to gain an awareness of how these views were formed. Hall was born in 1932 in Kinston, Jamaica. From a young age, he was noted as being much darker in skin colour than his siblings. This was seen frequently among the resulting offspring of a marriage between two different classes. For Hall, this mix comprises of the plantation-colonial heritage of his mother and his father’s Jamaican roots. This said, his father’s Jamaican roots were one of many, including ‘Portuguese, Indian, African and Jewish’ (Davis, 2004 p.5). Thanks to this vast array of divergent heritage and ancestry, it becomes abundantly clear as to why Hall’s work placed such an emphasis on the ideas of identity and belonging. From a very young age, he grew up with a tremendous sense of ambiguity regarding who he really was and where he really came...