Beyond essentialism: On Stuart Hall and Black British arts

Glenn Jordan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coco Fusco wrote in 2005 that the explosion of creativity in black culture in Britain in the 1980s, together with the accompanying critical debates, transformed assumptions about black art worldwide. The key senior figure in those debates was Stuart Hall. This article explores Hall as (1) an activist-intellectual who served as a mentor for artists from the African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean diasporas living in the UK and who intervened in public debates about ‘Black culture’ and ‘Black arts’ and (2) a cultural theorist whose concepts and ideas – for example, concerning modernity, diaspora, identity, subjectivity and cultural politics – facilitated transformative, anti-essentialist practices of ‘Black Art’ that started in the UK and spread internationally. Employing aspects of Hall’s method of ‘conjunctural analysis’, the article argues that, although known for its anti-essentialism, Black British arts of the 1980s and early 1990s constituted a contradictory formation – including a strong Afrocentric, essentialist trajectory that remained largely immune to Hall’s ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-27
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Afrocentricism
  • anti-essentialism
  • Black Art
  • diaspora
  • identity
  • Stuart Hall


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