Note on Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”

  • Ian Hussey
Keywords: cultural identity, representation, essentialism, colonialism, race


For some Marxists, issues of culture, identity and representation are secondary. In this research note, I analytically reflect on Stuart Hall’s (1996) canonical essay “Cultural Identity and Diaspora,” which stresses that these are significant concerns for anyone struggling for liberation. In his essay, Hall explicates two definitions of "cultural identity." The first is an essentialist identity, which emphasizes the similarities amongst a group of people. Hall argues that this definition can and does inspire feminist, anti-colonial and anti-racist art and activism, but cannot help us comprehend the trauma of colonialism. The second definition emphasizes the similarities and the differences amongst an imagined cultural group. Hall asserts that this definition is useful for understanding the trauma of colonialism because it emphasizes the historical and social contingency of identity. By using this definition in our analysis of power and normalization, we are better able to scrutinize historical and contemporary colonial relations and to struggle against them.
Research Notes