The hypervisibility and discourses of ‘wokeness’ in digital culture

Francesca Sobande, Akane Kanai, Natasha Zeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


From its origins in Black grassroots activist and political consciousness raising spaces, the term ‘woke’ has shifted in its significance. Now broadly synonymous with statements on social media that are assumed to indicate an investment in tackling social injustices, specifically, antiblackness and racial injustice, it has also become the subject of heated critique. Using key case studies such as the ‘I take responsibility’ and Instagram ‘blackout’ campaigns of 2020, this commentary clarifies how the cultural conventions and affordances of both social media and celebrity have shaped conceptualizations of ‘wokeness’. In its marketization, we suggest that ‘wokeness’ goes beyond the associations of progressive politics that advertisers attempt to attach to brands. Rather, we suggest that ‘wokeness’ is also conceptualized in terms of the quality of individual practices connected with antiracism and left politics more broadly. Observing that desires for ‘wokeness’ underpin its visibility and contestation, we explore the affective entanglements of ‘wokeness’ with whiteness, neoliberal identity culture, genres of social media content, and perceived expressions of sincerity. In doing so, we theorize the digital development, hyper-visibility, and marketization of ‘wokeness’, to grapple with how internet, consumer, and celebrity culture is implicated in contemporary understandings and expectations of social justice work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1576-1587
Number of pages12
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • activism
  • antiracism
  • Black Lives Matter
  • celebrity
  • digital
  • racism
  • visibility
  • wokeness

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