Stuart Hall and the “Politics of Signification”

Authored by: Christopher P. Campbell

The Routledge Companion to Media and Race

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138020726
eBook ISBN: 9781315778228
Adobe ISBN: 9781317695837


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Stuart Hall, the Jamaican-born British Studies cultural critic whose work heavily influenced a generation of scholars’ examinations of race and the mass media, died only a few months before the infamous 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man, was shot by a white police officer. After the shooting, some news organizations included in their immediate coverage of the event a photo of Brown taken from his Facebook page. In the photo, Brown stands in a tank top, unsmiling and flashing a peace sign (misidentified by some of those organizations as a gang sign). Later, other photos from Brown’s Facebook page surfaced that presented a less incendiary figure. Within a few days of Brown’s death, a hashtag—#IfTheyGunnedMeDown (as in, “If they gunned me down, which photo of me would the news media use”)—“trended” on social media applications like Twitter and Tumblr. Young African Americans posted two photos of themselves, one in which they appeared less than angelic juxtaposed against a photo that reflected them in a positive light, for instance in a graduation gown or military uniform.

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