Lives Remembered: Michael Green

By Kieran Connell
Wednesday 29 December 2010 01:00

Michael Green, who collapsed and died suddenly at his home in Birmingham on 14 December, was an academic who helped to establish the discipline of cultural studies at the pioneering Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies. His death shocked and deeply saddened the many who knew and respected him, both friends and colleagues, as well as his close family. He was in his mid-60s.

After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in English, Michael moved to the University of Birmingham in 1964, initially to work in the English department. In the same year, Richard Hoggart established the Centre at the University in order to carry out academic research on popular culture. Michael became one of the Centre's few members of staff, and worked closely, first with Hoggart and then with Stuart Hall, to help establish a new discipline that went against the established academic grain by taking pop music, television programmes and tabloid newspapers as objects worthy of serious academic study. Michael believed passionately in the subject right up to his untimely death. He did not publish widely, but supervised scores of MA and PhD theses, including those by people who would go on to be leaders in the field.

My own relationship with Michael, like many, was on both a personal and a professional level. My parents met at the Centre, and both had their MA theses supervised by Michael. My dad completed his in 1985, the year I was born. Like so many of his former students, Michael kept in touch with my parents, and soon he began to take an interest in my own academic work. We would hold informal supervision meetings drinking coffee and eating cake in various cafes around Birmingham.

Recently, Michael had begun to help myself and a colleague in my department plan a research project that looked back at the history of the working practices at the Centre. Michael's input was typically enthusiastic and incisive – he would provide generous comments on drafts and heartily rebuke either of us for not having read one key text or the other.

Michael remained intellectually active right up to his death. He had just finished writing an introduction to a biography of Richard Hoggart, and had plans for a website to map the social consequences of the present cuts in government funding. The last time I saw Michael was a week before his death, in the University library having lunch. He complained about how loud the students were, and passionately enthused about the brilliance of the academic text he was reading. That is how I will fondly remember him.

Michael is survived by his wife, Alison, their daughter Emily and Michael's stepdaughter Elly.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments