The Beginning of a Perfect Decolonial Moment




In this transcript of an episode of The Funambulist’s podcast “A Moment of True Decolonization” originally published in April 2020, Ruth Wilson Gilmore guides us through the particular experience of a late 1980s reading group in southern California that engaged with Stuart Hall’s work. Understanding the practice of reading for the purpose not of reciting but rather as rehearsal—and what that might entail—is what she offers us as the beginning of a perfect decolonial moment. 

Rodriguez Funambulist 1
Around the table working, reading, and dialoguing, enjoying these meals together. Learning and transmitting. (painting on the wall) BX Third World Liberation Mixtape No. 2 (Esquire Strikes Empire) by Shellyne Rodriguez (2021). / Photo from Third World Mixtapes: The Infrastructure of Feeling, an exhibition by Shellyne Rodriguez at the P·P·O·W Gallery in New York City (2023).

In the late 1980s, Hazel Carby’s Reconstructing Womanhood introduced a Southern California reading group to the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS). We had never doubted the continuity and interplay among campaigns for justice, community-generated inquiry, and informal and organized education—including university training. But craving fresh insights, we read newer texts in areas such as Black feminist theory to challenge what we thought we already knew. Keen interest in pedagogy sparked by encounters with Paolo Freire, and admiration for Carby’s militant learning, made us curious about Stuart Hall, the person she called her best teacher at CCCS. It wasn’t easy to find Hall’s publications in the USA in the late 1980s. One of our cadre, a bookseller, came up with a few titles: Race, Articulation and Societies Structured in Dominance; later The Hard Road to Renewal; and soon thereafter, Hall’s lecture in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture