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'Woke' or 'wokeness' - a term of enlightenment for some and a slur for others?

7 April 2021 11:08 AM
Tags:
Political correctness
culture
Activism
woke

Lester Kiewit chats to analysts about the term that seems to garner strong responses - but what does it really mean?

Lester Kiewit unravels the meaning of "wokeness", how it originated, its effects on social groups, and how it has been appropriated.

To some, the term means an enlightened, a conscientisation about how certain races and gender prop up systems in society. For some, it means a form of empathy, solidarity with a marginalised people, whether it's race, sex, gender identity. definitely also class.

Lester Kiewit, Presenter -CapeTalk

But for others, the term 'wokeness' is a slur, a pejorative that defines so-called political correctness gone wild - with concepts of snowflakes and cancel culture.

Lester Kiewit, Presenter -CapeTalk

Is this simply part of a changing world, or culture war, that pits generations like Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, or Zennials, against one another asks Lester?

Lester talks to panelists Rekgotsofetse Chikane, a lecturer of governance at Wits University who was once a leader in the Fees Must Fall Movement, and Angelo Fick, a political and cultural analyst about the issues.

The generational conflict that you have described is not new in human history.

Angelo Fick, Political and cultural analyst

In South Africa, for example, he says, this was seen in the late 1940s, in 1976, and in the 1980s, as younger people conceded that older people had brought society to a certain point, but now change was needed moving into the future.

Fick says the term woke has origins in the United States anti-slave movement, but also in the 20th-century anti-racist struggles.

It literally means 'to be aware of', 'to be alert', 'to be awake', 'to look out for', and this was because it was a response to the complacency that had set in where people forgot older struggles.

Angelo Fick, Political and cultural analyst

He says the 2000s has seen a rise in the term once again as local communities have taken up global struggles.

That is partly also because of the way in which information circulates fairly quickly around the world in the 21st century for the first time.

Angelo Fick, Political and cultural analyst

He quotes French philosopher Jean Baudrillard who said in the late 1970s 'more and more information and less and less meaning.' Sometimes people take up terms without knowing its full history, he adds.

So there is this double-edged sword around the term woke at the moment where both those who think of themselves as 'woke' (and I am not one of them) as well as severe critics of people who think of themselves as woke, are using the term with quite oppositional meaning. So it's a slur, but it is also a term of self-identification for many people to indicate their politics

Angelo Fick, Political and cultural analyst

Chikane says while he cannot speak for all young people in South Africa, but offers a general analysis.

I like using the phrase 'born into bondage' as a nice juxtaposition of the notion of being born free.

Rekgotsofetse Chikane, Lecturer of Governance - Wits University

He says for most born in poverty they are likely to die in poverty and this raises questions about the structure of society.

Chikane says these criticisms can be seen in examples such as service delivery protests and more.

But criticisms also emanate in the realm of signs and symbols and language. And the 'woke culture'...is another attempt at asking critical questions about how society is functioning and the type of society a young person wants to grow up in.

Rekgotsofetse Chikane, Lecturer of Governance - Wits University

Listen to the conversation in the audio below:

Copyright : ammentorp / 123rf



7 April 2021 11:08 AM
Tags:
Political correctness
culture
Activism
woke

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