Tracking Global Wokeism

January 17, 2023 - January 19, 2023
Global Studies Center, Gulf University for Science and Technology

w6 200
Kuwait 32093

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Gulf University For Science And Technology

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The word ‘woke’, initially coined by African Americans in the 1930s as an injunction to stay mindful of racial inequalities, has over the last decade been used to raise awareness of any sort of discrimination. The term has helped to advance the cause of social justice in many domains. However, a search on the internet can quickly yield the impression that “woke” is now, similar to “Political Correctness,” predominantly used in a negative fashion. People who are “too woke” are criticized as dogmatic, self-righteous, and obsessed with moral purity. 

Does this phenomenon exist in the non-Western world? If yes, is it imported from America or does it have vernacular roots? Is wokeness compatible with existing traditions? The Chinese translate wokeism as “baizuo,” meaning “white left,” which is curious given the African American origin of the term. Feelings of guilt have led privileged Americans (and Europeans) to the adoption of wokeism. What is the Arab, African, Latin American, or Asian view on this? Is the search for “individualism” that wokeism supports less strong in these regions, thus making any introduction of woke impossible or superfluous? Is wokeism simply the domain of privileged “First World” youth and irrelevant for other places? Wokeism is based on “identity politics,” which is a typically American phenomenon. Can it/should it be imported into the non-West?  

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