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Modern Life

Features | October 2017

What is Woke?

Woke is the past form of the verb ‘to wake’. If you have messed about on the internet recently, you might have noticed it has been repurposed as an adjective in sentences such as, ‘Check out these pix of Canadian premier Justin Trudeau at Gay Pride! That man is so woke.’ Or, ‘Sister, thank you for explaining to me why Harry Potter is imperialist propaganda. You’re the wokest.’ In its new grammatical lease of life, woke functions a bit like ‘awake’, meaning alert, aware, roused from slumber. However, if you were to say, ‘It was only after my second cup of coffee and a nice pain aux raisins that I became woke,’ you would be missing the point. Woke refers to political awakening. It’s when the scales fall from your eyes and, at last, you perceive the hidden structures upholding racism, specifically, but also misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, the neoliberal hegemony...

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