Stuart Hall′s Voice

Intimations of an Ethics of Receptive Generosity

Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: April 2017

Author: David Scott

Caribbean Studies, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Stuart Hall’s Voice explores the ethos of style that characterized Stuart Hall’s intellectual vocation. David Scott frames the book—which he wrote as a series of letters to Hall in the wake of his death—as an evocation of friendship understood as the moral and intellectual medium in which his dialogical hermeneutic relationship with Hall’s work unfolded. In this respect, the book asks: what do we owe intellectually to the work of those whom we know well, admire, and honor? Reflecting one of the lessons of Hall’s style, the book responds: what we owe should be conceived less in terms of criticism than in terms of listening. 
Hall’s intellectual life was animated by voice in literal and extended senses: not only was his voice distinctive in the materiality of its sound, but his thinking and writing were fundamentally shaped by a dialogical and reciprocal practice of speaking and listening. Voice, Scott suggests, is the central axis of the ethos of Hall’s style. 
Against the backdrop of the consideration of the voice’s aspects, Scott specifically engages Hall’s relationship to the concepts of "contingency" and "identity," concepts that were dimensions less of a method as such than of an attuned and responsive attitude to the world. This attitude, moreover, constituted an ethical orientation of Hall’s that should be thought of as a special kind of generosity, namely a "receptive generosity," a generosity oriented as much around giving as receiving, as much around listening as speaking.


"Scott’s small and eminently readable book is written as a series of epistolary letters to his late friend and mentor..... When the book merits our attention, it is in its keen attention and responsiveness to central themes in Halls oeuvre, and Hall’s mode of thinking and engaging as a public intellectual. For Scott calls attention to Hall’s using his particular and characteristic voice as a public intellectual as a mode of thinking itself; and speaking and listening a way of clarification." — Sindre Bangstad, Africa is a Country

"Scott is an anthropologist at Columbia and to my mind one of the most provocative and interesting figures in the constellation of literary criticism and political philosophy that falls under post-colonial theory.... [A] very lively conversation and an interesting introduction to the thought and style of both Stuart Hall and David Scott." — Michael Schapira, Full Stop

"David Scott’s Stuart Hall’s Voice consists of a wonderfully original format, a series of letters written to Hall after his death exploring the significance of his legacy to so many contemporary intellectuals who remain enthralled by his influence." — Mark Perryman, Open Democracy

"[A] triumphant and sensitive exploration into a tricky and fascinating topic. . . . Scott’s book serves as a welcome reminder that to think comprehensively with and through the work of Stuart Hall, we cannot neglect his powerful voice which, in exhibiting a particular kind of stylistic ethos, embraced listening and learning as much, if not more, than it did speaking and teaching." — Nick Malherbe, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"David Scott’s latest book is an exemplary and novel exercise in style, form, and content that seeks, simultaneously, to grasp the inner meanings of Stuart Hall’s eclectic and lengthy oeuvre, locate it within the universe of contemporary social and political theory, and celebrate the life and work of a close interlocutor and friend. Any one of these objectives would be difficult to execute successfully in such a short monograph, yet Scott is able to largely pull off an accurate and compelling engagement without, for the most part, reverting to long-winded adumbration or maudlin sentimentality." — Brian Meeks, New West Indian Guide

"This is an unusual and unusually beautiful book." — John Clarke, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Scott maps an uncommon history of his intellectual friendship with Hall. But their relationship is obviously more than just one of scholarly admiration. Scott shows deep care in how the book dialogically speaks to and listens with Hall’s thinking voice through writing. It is as if the two are in actual material communion. Scott’s epistolary style is rich in its possibilities as use for other similar academic enterprises and sits at the intersections of fiction, exposition, memory and critical analysis." — Agostinho Pinnock, Postcolonial Studies

"I found myself disagreeing often, only to discover this is David Scott’s whole point—unlearning what we take for granted can open us to a dialogical ethics of receptivity of the kind Stuart Hall enacted throughout his intellectual life. With philosophically inflected readings of 'identity' and 'contingency' that engage a range of political traditions, this epistolary experiment brings a new interpretive perspective to understanding Hall’s inimitable way of thinking aloud." — Kobena Mercer, author of Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

David Scott is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of a number of books, including Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice and Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment, and is the editor of Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Apology: On Intellectual Friendship  1
1. A Listening Self: Voice and the Ethos of Style  23
2. Responsiveness to the Present: Thinking through Contingency  53
3. Attunement to Identity: What We Make of What We Find  85
4. Learning to Learn from Others: An Ethics of Receptive Generosity  115
Adieu: Walk Good  143
Acknowledgments  147
Notes  149
Index  179
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6363-7
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