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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 30 - 2023, No. 4

Land of Woke and Glory? The Conceptualisation and Framing of “Wokeness” in UK Media and Public Discourses

, , , , pages: 513-533[open access]

Though the term originated in the early twentieth century, it is only recently “wokeness” has become a staple of British media discourse. Typically, the concept features in commentaries and exchanges about institutional power, censorship, minority rights/representation, and structural racism, i.e. “culture wars” discourses. Polling suggests that the public considers wokeness a threat despite lacking clarity or consensus on its specific meaning. This study addresses this ambiguity, combining an analysis of coverage in the UK press with posts on Twitter and a questionnaire, asking UK respondents to define and exemplify wokeness. All samples revealed a multi-faceted concept observed at individual, group, cultural and corporate levels. A range of positive and negative framings were found, e.g. awareness and compassion vs. weakness and puritanism. Broader narratives constructed around wokeness include aspirational traits, moral posturing, a modern secular religion, and an insurgent “woke agenda.” These offer insights into how the concept is characterised and operationalised.

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