The Essay

Between Gazes
Camelia Elias
Stuart Hall
 born in Jamaica,
Kingston, 1932
 studied at Oxford
 professor of sociology
at the Open
University, UK
 Race: the Floating
Main claim
 Mass media are a means by which the
‘haves’ of society gain the willing support
of the ‘have nots’ for the status quo.
 language in use (discourse) determines
communicative events
 “the event must become a story before it
can become a communicative event”
(Encoding/Decoding, 164)
“Culturalist” marxism
 Rejects rigid economic determinism
 Social behavior is overdetermined (has
multiple causes such as class, gender,
 Marxist theorists tend to emphasize the role of
the mass media in the reproduction of the status
quo, in contrast to liberal pluralists who
emphasize the role of the media in promoting
freedom of speech.
 For Hall et al. the mass media do tend to
reproduce interpretations which serve the
interests of the ruling class, but they are also a
field of ideological struggle
(see D. Chandler: “Marxist Media Theory”
 Preponderant influence or domination of
‘haves’ over the ‘have nots’
Not total
Not based on force
Not a plot or conspiracy
Based on widespread acceptance of
dominant ideology
 Mental frameworks or ‘codes’ widely used
to understand society
 Mass media (esp. TV) usually encode
(implicitly assume) the dominant ideology
 the dominant ideology is typically inscribed as the
preferred reading in a media text, but this is not
automatically adopted by readers.
 The social situations of readers/viewers/listeners may lead them
to adopt different stances.
 Dominant readings are produced by those whose social
situation favors the preferred reading;
 negotiated readings are produced by those who inflect the
preferred reading to take account of their social position;
 and oppositional readings are produced by those whose social
position puts them into direct conflict with the preferred reading
(see Hall’s essay: “Encoding/Decoding”
and also D. Chandler: “Marxist Media Theory”
Decoding options
Three ways to decode media (text + sign) messages
1. operate inside the dominant code (fail to question the
implicit dominant ideology)
2. apply a negotiable code (a version of the dominant
ideology that reflects the audience member’s social
3. substitute an oppositional code (critical awareness,
rejection of the dominant ideology)
Cultural studies theory promotes oppositional decoding
 “Identity is the narrative, the stories which
cultures tell themselves about who they
are and where they came from”
(S. Hall, “Negotiating Caribbean Identity”).
 “…identity is not only a story, a narrative which we tell
ourselves about ourselves, it is stories which change
with historical circumstances. And identity shifts with the
way in which we think and hear them and experience
them. Far from only coming from the still small point of
truth inside us, identities actually come from outside,
they are the way in which we are recognized and then
come to step into the place of the recognitions which
others give us. Without the others there is no self, there
is no self-recognition”
(Negotiating Caribbean Identity, 8).
The European Encounter with the ‘Other’
(Americas, Africa, India)
 Clothed
 Fashion
 Labour
 Ethics
 Masculine
 Reason
 Culture
The Other
 Naked
 Adornment
 Leisure
 Pleasure
 Feminine
 Emotion
 Nature
Key points from Hall’s:
“The West and the Rest” in
Formations of Modernity, 1992
 ‘West’ and ‘non-West’ are concepts with
histories; they are not natural kinds
 The idea of the ‘West’ emerged because of
contact with ‘non-West’; therefore these ideas
also have geographies related to real places
 ‘West’ and ‘non-West’ are ideas that are part of
 These geohistorical discourses inform our
everyday thinking today
“Listen Mr Oxford don”
Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn't graduate
I immigrate
But listen Mr Oxford don
I'm a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one
I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen's English
is the story of my life
I dont need no axe
to split/ up yu syntax
I dont need no hammer
to mash up yu grammar
I warning you Mr Oxford don
I'm a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one
Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary/
imagin a concise peaceful man like me/
dem want me serve time
for inciting rhyme to riot
but I tekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common
I'm not a violent man Mr Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon
So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self-defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary
I making de Queen's English accessory/to my offence
John Agard
cultural identity
 collective
shared history among individuals affiliated by
race or ethnicity is stable or fixed
 unstable, metamorphic, contradictory
marked by multiple points of similarity and
strongest in its hybrid mode
East is East
 The signifying system through which a
social order is:
English Literature and Culture course
 insight into the diversity of ‘text and sign’
 texts (novels, plays, poetry) mediated by visual
representations that enhance the way text + sign
as a concept circulates by way of diverse
 text + sign dimension is best uncovered in a
cultural text studies approach
 Culture is read as a text  culture produces texts
 Texts are read as culture  texts manifest culture