A Feminist Love Letter to Stuart Hall; or What Feminist Cultural Studies Needs to Remember

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Elspeth Probyn


I need to preface these brief remarks with a caveat. I was to write of Hall’s contribution to forging feminist cultural studies, the intellectual project I have felt affiliated with across my academic life, and certainly that which has inspired and formed me. But I don’t feel entitled to write of ‘feminist cultural studies’ in the way that others, such as Lucy Bland, Janice Winship, Angela McRobbie and Charlotte Brunsdon can. I wasn’t there when the Women Studies Group at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies struggled with ‘the dilemma’ of ‘whether to conquer the whole of cultural studies and only then to make a feminist critique of it, or whether to focus on the “woman question” from the beginning’. The group did conceptual work across the disciplines of history, anthropology, psychology and literary studies, and grappled with theoretical movements influenced by figures as varied as Lacan, Marx and Foucault and across sites such as popular culture, regimes of gendered work and eighteenth-century novels. At the same time, and in their words, ‘the Group also felt it wanted to do concrete work rather than engaging theoretical wrangles’. Across the chapters in Women Take Issue I see dedicated feminists poring over texts, their own and others, and then heading to the streets, the factories and girls’ bedrooms to understand how, where and with what effect gendered relations were being reproduced. It is a picture of scholarly intent a bit at odds with Hall’s description in hindsight of how feminism roared into the project of cultural studies:

For cultural studies (in addition to many other theoretical projects), the intervention of feminism was specific and decisive. It was ruptural … As a thief in the night, it broke in, interrupted, made an unseemly noise, seized the time, crapped on the table of cultural studies.

Article Details

Stuart Hall: In Memoriam
Author Biography

Elspeth Probyn, University of Sydney

Elspeth Probyn is Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney.