Goldsmiths renames building in honour of academic pioneer Stuart Hall: “He loved the spirit of this place”

Professor Catherine Hall, widow of the late Professor Staurt Hall, unveils the plaque. Pic: Kate Ng

Professor Catherine Hall, widow of the late Professor Stuart Hall, unveils the plaque. Pic: Kate Ng

Leading academics from around the world gathered at Goldsmiths in Lewisham today for the renaming of a key building in honour of cultural studies pioneer Professor Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year.

Catherine Hall, his widow, unveiled a plaque to rename the New Academic Building as the Professor Stuart Hall Building. The building houses the university’s Media and Communications Department.

The renaming ceremony was the climax to a week of events in memory of Hall, the leading left wing academic who pioneered cultural studies as a scholastic discipline and led Britain’s first centre for cultural studies at Birmingham University, established by Professor Richard Hoggart. Hoggart, who also died earlier this year was a former warden at Goldsmiths and also has a building on the campus named after him.

Also at the ceremony was Professor Angela Davis, renowned civil rights activist and Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who gave a keynote address at a special conference held in the building to mark the occasion, attended by speakers from all over the world.

Professor Hall, Professor of Modern British Social and Cultural History at University College London, said: “It is a tremendous honour to Stuart which we are deeply appreciative of. It feels really appropriate because he did love the spirit of Goldsmiths; he enjoyed his visits here, he loved the arguments and debates that went on here.”

“Goldsmiths is a living space of intellectual, political and critical engagement which is what he deeply cared about. When he was asked how he thought about himself, he said: ‘What I really am is a teacher.’’’

She added: “Being open to different voices, being open to critical engagement is the nature of any critical enterprise. I hope that this building will speak that spirit for generations to come.”

Davis, who has cited Stuart Hall as a major influence, said: “It has been a major honour to be present at this ceremony.”

“As someone who received an honorary doctorate from here last year, I came to Goldsmiths looking for Stuart Hall. I had to find him through the Richard Hoggart building. Now, Stuart has his own building and may his spirit continue to transform individuals and individuals’ lives.”

The week of events celebrated Hall’s legacy as the “godfather of multiculturalism” and his place in the political, social and cultural discourse. Tributes were paid through a series of film screenings, exhibitions and discussions of key texts.

Also unveiled was a light installation “Refracted Prisms”, created by Goldsmiths students, which casts a ray of reflected light on anyone entering the building.

The Professor Stuart Hall Building opened in 2010 and is the home of Eastlondonlines.

 Professor Stuart Hall

Professor Stuart Hall. Pic: Goldsmiths University of London

Professor Stuart Hall in the 1970’s. Pic: Goldsmiths University of London

Stuart McPhail Hall was born in 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica and died in February this year.

Awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University in 1951, he abandoned his English PhD to devote time to politics and the launch of the “new left”.

 In 1957 he founded the “New Left Review” with left-wing academics Raymond Williams and EP Thompson.

 In the same year, he joined the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and it was on a CND march in 1963 that he met his future wife, Professor Catherine Hall.

Hall joined the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University in 1964, at the invitation of Richard Hoggart and is credited with establising cultural studies as an academic discipline.

 Hall left Birmingham University in 1979 to become a professor of sociology at the Open University. He retired in 1997 and was a made Professor Emeritus.

 In 1979, Hall coined the term “Thatcherism” as Margaret Thatcher was elected to 10 Downing Street on May 4.

 From 1997 to 2000 he served on the Runnymede Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. In 2005 he was made a fellow of the British Academy.

Professor Angela Davis 

Professor Catherine Hall and Angela Davis. Pic: Kate Ng

Professor Catherine Hall and Angela Davis. Pic: Kate Ng

Davis was born in 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama.

She became a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s. She was a leader in and twice candidate for Vice President of the Communist Party USA and had close ties with the Black Panther Party.

In 1969 Davis was removed from her position in the Philosophy Department at UCLA as a result of her political activism and membership in the Communist Party.

In 1970 she was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and was the subject of an intense police search. She was tried and later acquitted of conspiracy in the armed take-over of a Marin County courtroom which led to four deaths.

She was imprisoned for 16 months, during which time the “Free Angela Davis” campaign was organised, leading to her acquittal in 1972.

Davis was a founder of Critical Resistance, a national organisation dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex, a term she helped to make popular.

She is the author of nine books, including “Angela Davis: An Autobiography; Women, Race, and Class”, “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism”, “Are Prisons Obsolete?”, and “The Meaning of Freedom”.

Davis is currently a Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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