The texts that are published in this issue of Meridian are related to the conference “Tracking Global Wokeism” that took place in Kuwait from February 7 to 8, 2023. The purpose of the conference was to widen the spectrum of wokeness discussions and to point to the global character of the phenomenon. A book publication with full-length papers will follow.

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?

What happens when Islam meets woke? Does Islamic culture generate something like its own kind of wokeness? Or do, in these parts of the world, traditional “class based” fights remain more relevant for leftist politics than identity politics?

1. Hans-Georg Moeller: Wokeism: A Global Civil Religion in the “Age of Profilicity?”

Wokeism is a secular Western “civil religion” combining identity politics and “guilt pride.” By its emphasis on the display of morality on (social) media, it is connected with “profilicity”—the curation of identity in the form of a profile or “brand.” Non-Western cultures may develop alternative secular and “profilic” wokeisms.


2. William Franke: Unsaying Wokeism, or the Role of Self-Critique in Judging Others

Wokeism promulgates a sacred truth shining with splendor and beauty – the imperative of freedom and justice for all without exclusions or discrimination. However, like almost all institutionalized religions, it takes this truth over in idolatrous ways that make it serve as a means of consolidating power and repressing opponents.

Nancy Pelosi kneeling to honor George Floyd in 2020

3. Ignacio López-Calvo: The Afterlives of Wokeness and the Limits of Epistemic Colonialism

I review the history of the concepts woke, cancel culture, cultural appropriation, and woke capitalism, and how they have been adopted (or not) around the world. Even if these concepts have not always been incorporated into the local languages, similar concerns are increasingly percolating in sociopolitical debates in many countries.

Chifa is a Chinese Peruvian culinary tradition based on Cantonese elements fused with traditional Peruvian ingredients and traditions

4. Nesma Elsakaan: Political Correctness and Wokeism in Complex Arab Context(s)

Political correctness and Wokeism are Western concepts. In Arab contexts, minorities and vulnerable groups (e.g., black Arabs, women as well as homosexual people) are struggling for their social and political rights. Could PC and Woke inspire them? Are these ideas compatible with Islamic values?

Wokeism in arab contexts

5. Jibril Latif Browning: Wokeism: Can we Laugh About It?

Wokeism's ostensible capture of institutions and ideological intolerance represses a silent majority afraid of being cancelled. It is theorized, therefore, that those who can survive cancellation, often through the use and shield of comedy, like Dave Chappelle, are heroized for their authenticity and antisystemness, creating a counter-hegemonic alternative mediascape.

Can We Laught About It

6. Zoltan Somhegyi: Curing and Caring Through Art. Memory and Memorials in Times of Changing Interpretations of the Contested Past

Through monuments and memorials one can relate to the past. In a classical sense, they are erected to commemorate certain events or personalities. However, the assessment of this earlier “message” of the original intention may change...

Michele Bernardi and Arnold Holzknecht, Untitled, 2017, LED lights, installation on Hans Piffrader, Il Trionfo del Fascismo, 1939–42, bas-relief, Palazzo delle Finanze, Bolzano (photograph by Laura Egger)

7. Ismail Lala: Wokeism and Spiritual Legalism. Ibn ‘Arabi’s Law for the Individual

Wokeism champions individualism. This puts it at odds with jurisprudence, which seeks to impose universal judgements on people. Yet in the spiritual legalism of Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240), Islamic jurisprudence is highly subjectivised to foster each individual’s path towards actualisation of their potentiality. It therefore has significant parallels with wokeism.

Ibn Arabi

8. E. Enise Yakar: The Concept of Wokeism in Islamic Legal Philosophy

Despite the persisting vagueness of definitions, the term wokeism has become popular in public arenas to promote social concerns. The article identifies the meanings of wokeness, its legal limits, and philosophical extensions in the context of Islamic legal philosophy.

Masjid Nabawi

9. Angela Gonzalez Echeverry: Tracking Wokeism. The Case of Batallon Ayacucho, Manizales-Colombia in the Post-Conflict Reality.

A study of the oral tradition of the military cadence or canticles/songs used in Manizales’ military unit. There was a controversy that arose because the songs repeated by the soldiers during early morning trainings were homophobic and misogynistic and were encouraged by the squad commander.

Manziales, Columbia

10. Alejandro Carpio: Wokeism and Catharism. On Religions that Might Have Existed.

Cathar and Woke questions share common ground. When speaking of Wokeism, one of the obstacles that current cultural critics face is the possibility that, like the Cathars, the woke are more an invention of ours than a clearly identifiable group of subjects who profess an actual religion.


11. Tommaso Ostillio: Wokeism and Democracy. A Terrible Mix

Wokeism—as an ideology—is a potent enabler of group polarization. Secondly, polarization among its upholders results from the fact that they often display those behavioral patterns typical of behavioral conformity. Thirdly, groupthink and behavioral conformity jointly lead the upholders of wokeism to disbelieve any view that question theirs.


Arguments and ideas in the present articles represent those of the respective authors and not necessarily GUST University or the editors of this Newsletter.