Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall brought issues of race, sexuality, identity and the media into the academic debate

Stuart Hall, the pioneering theorist and sociologist, described as the "godfather of multiculturalism", has died following kidney failure a week after his 82nd birthday.

Jamaican-born Hall was one of the left's leading influential figures, who brought issues of race, sexuality, identity and the media into academic debate.

He was prominent in the sphere of the New Left, a term and grouping which sought to place cultural and social change in the forefront of political analysis. The term, in reference to activists, educators and agitators, brought reforms to abortion, gay rights, gender roles and drug use, in addition to the established movements on social class and social justice.

For Hall, culture was more than an appreciation or an academic study, but a "critical site of social action and intervention, where power relations are both established and potentially unsettled".

Hall also coined the term "Thatcherism", associated with the rise of the new Right before Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979. A regular contributor to Marxism Today, Hall warned those on the left in 1979 not to dismiss the appeal of the fledgling Thatcherism. He maintained it addressed "real problems, real and lived experiences, real contradictions".

Arriving from Kingston, Hall won a Rhodes Scholarship to Merton College at the University of Oxford, where he studied English and obtained a Master's Degree. He founded the influential New Left Review and at the invitation of British academic Richard Hoggart, he joined the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in 1964.

He became the centre's director in 1968 and remained there until 1979, where he became instrumental in expanding the breadth of cultural studies to include issues of race and gender.

Between 1979 and 1997, Hall became a professor of sociology at the Open University, studying questions of post-colonialism and race. Hall theorised on how a modern, multicultural British society could be created; respecting and considering religious and cultural differences between UK citizens. He became a Professor Emeritus on retirement.

Hall was married to Catherine Hall, a feminist professor of modern British history at University College London. He has been suffering from complications following kidney failure the week after his 82nd birthday.

Academics, politicians and writers have all paid tribute to Hall, his work and his influence on academic, cultural and social debates, which have spanned across six centuries.

John Akomfrah, who produced the documentary The Stuart Hall Project, told The Voice: "Stuart Hall was one of the few people of colour we saw on television who wasn't crooning, dancing, or running... he was a kind of rock star for us [black teenagers], a pop icon with brains whose very iconic presence on this most public of platforms – television – suggested all manner of 'impossible possibilities'."

Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, the Jamaican High Commissioner said: "His work and observations in the areas of cultural identity and society in the UK speaks for itself."

Martin Bean, vice-chancellor of The Open University, also paid his respects to Hall. He said: "Stuart was one of the intellectual founders of cultural studies, publishing many influential books and shaping conversations of the time.

"It was a privilege to have Stuart at the heart of The Open University – touching and influencing so many lives through his courses and tutoring. He was a committed and influential public intellectual of the New Left, who embodied the spirit of what the OU has always stood for; openness, accessibility, a champion for social justice and of the power of education to bring positive change in peoples' lives."

Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, told the Guardian: "For me he was a hero. A black man who soared above and beyond the limitations imposed by racism and one of the leading cultural theorists of his generation."

Owen Jones, a British journalist associated with left-wing politics, also paid tribute to Hall: