BLACK CULTURAL STUDIES AND THE POLITICS
AT THE SAME moment that West Coast gangsta rap began to make an impression in sales charts and that King Tee and Ice Cube started to appear on urban billboards brandishing 40s, debates were heating up in the field of black cultural studies. Across the Atlantic in Britain, Stuart Hall influentially proclaimed “the end of the innocent notion of the essential black subject” in a 1988 conference paper and article entitled “New Ethnicities.” He identified “a significant shift in black cultural politics”: a shift away from replacing “their” bad forms with “our” good ones and toward a “new phase” that was concerned with “the struggle around strategic positionalities.”1 Rather than focus on the “relations of representation” (is it good or bad? authentic or not? and so on), he, along with others in the United States and United Kingdom, advocated a greater concern with the “politics of representation.”2 This view entailed looking behind the relations of individual media representations and self-representations of blackness in order to explore the wider structures and deeper determinants that shape the popular-culture terrain.
With its triangular framework of structuralism, culturalism, and Marxism, British cultural studies, exemplified by the work of Hall and that of Paul Gilroy,