The Sense of Displacement: Stuart Hall’s Life and Work
Stuart Hall was an eminent and widely admired figure, that field-transforming enterprise that has altered the way we think about the humanities and social sciences. But Hall’s distinctiveness as an intellectual was more than the sum total of these critical essays. What made Hall the singular intellectual he was had to do with a certain approach. Hall, I believe, is one of those rare intellectuals about whom one is bound to say that style defined the content of the form of his thinking-being-acting. And if one had to give a name to this style it would be the constitutive sense of displacement. And it is precisely this sense of displacement as a wellspring of Hall’s way of being an intellectual that invites the idea of a biography of his life and work. One senses in Hall an intimate relation between the arc of his life and the character of his ideas. Indeed, Hall was aware that there was a story to be told about the personal context of his itinerary as an intellectual, and moreover that this was not a story only about Britain but also a story about Jamaica. The project at the II&I is to draft the Jamaica chapters.
David Scott teaches in the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University. He is the author of Formations of Ritual (1994), Refashioning Futures (1999), Conscripts of Modernity (2004), Omens of Adversity (2014), Stuart Hall’s Voice (2017), Irreparable Evil: An Essay in Moral and Reparatory History (forthcoming 2024), and (with Orlando Patterson) The Paradox of Freedom (2023). Scott is the founder and editor of the journal Small Axe and director of the Small Axe Project.