Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands | National Humanities Center

Work of the Fellows: Memoirs; Edited Volumes

Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands

Edited by Bill Schwarz (NHC Fellow, 2015–16) and Stuart Hall

Intellectuals; Jamaicans; Cultural Identity; New Left; Colonialism; Stuart Hall; United Kingdom

Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017

From the publisher’s description:

"Sometimes I feel myself to have been the last colonial." This, in his own words, is the extraordinary story of the life and career of Stuart Hall—how his experiences shaped his intellectual, political, and theoretical work and how he became one of his age's brightest intellectual lights.

Growing up in a middle-class family in 1930s Kingston, Jamaica, still then a British colony, the young Stuart Hall found himself uncomfortable in his own home. He lived among Kingston's stiflingly respectable brown middle class, who, in their habits and ambitions, measured themselves against the white elite. As colonial rule was challenged, things began to change in Kingston and across the world. In 1951 a Rhodes scholarship took Hall across the Atlantic to Oxford University, where he met young Jamaicans from all walks of life, as well as writers and thinkers from across the Caribbean, including V. S. Naipaul and George Lamming. While at Oxford he met Raymond Williams, Charles Taylor, and other leading intellectuals, with whom he helped found the intellectual and political movement known as the New Left. With the emotional aftershock of colonialism still pulsing through him, Hall faced a new struggle: that of building a home, a life, and an identity in a postwar England so rife with racism that it could barely recognize his humanity.

With great insight, compassion, and wit, Hall tells the story of his early life, taking readers on a journey through the sights, smells, and streets of 1930s Kingston while reflecting on the thorny politics of 1950s and 1960s Britain. Full of passion and wisdom, Familiar Stranger is the intellectual memoir of one of our greatest minds.

Literature / Sociology / Intellectuals / Jamaicans / Cultural Identity / New Left / Colonialism / Stuart Hall / United Kingdom /

Schwarz, Bill (NHC Fellow, 2015–16), ed. Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands. Edited by Bill Schwarz and Stuart Hall. Stuart Hall: Selected Writings. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.