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Woke as Science

Good morning, Maastricht University!

Whether at UM, in the Netherlands or internationally, there is much commotion about ‘wokeness’ in academia. Everyone seems to have an opinion and these opinions are often confirmed by our own echo chambers resulting in a highly polarized discourse. A polarization that seems impossible to overcome at times. 

The strange thing is that most of us actually agree with the underlying premise: addressing injustices in our classrooms, in (access to) research and society at large.

The idea behind this podcast and hence its title is to play with and explore exactly these associations of the term woke and its associated expressions. We aim to unpack underlying assumptions and work through some of the ideas that move our community and animate the current debate. We do not want to shy away from a label that has turned toxic but want to dissect the key ideas and debates behind the ‘woke wars’. Relevant guests help us in this endeavor.  Accessible transcripts are available.

Podcast Episodes

Episode #6
Episode #5

On Speaking up

Speaking up, voicing concerns, calling out – there are many ways to give a less threatening spin to the term ‘complaining’. However, we want to call this act, it is necessary in any organisation to be able to alert people to and discuss biases, blind spots and injustices. While there are often (complaint) structures present to facilitate such processes, speaking up is not always (made) easy. It comes with anger and frustrations and is often met with anger and frustrations. We invited BA student Sophia Longwe who has done her fair share of speaking up to give some insights and tips for finding the courage and dealing with the repercussions of putting yourself out there as a complainer. 


Listen to the podcast

Read the accessible transcript


Reference list:

  1. Flensner, K. K., & Von der Lippe, M. (2019). Being safe from what and safe for whom? A critical discussion of the conceptual metaphor of ‘safe space’. Intercultural Education, 30(3), 275-288. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2019.1540102
  2. Samatar, A., Madriaga, M., & McGrath, L. (2021). No love found: how female students of colour negotiate and repurpose university spaces. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 42(5–6), 717–732. https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2021.1914548
  3. MacLachlan, A. (2022, May 7).Tone-Policing and the Assertion of Authority. Blog of the APA. https://blog.apaonline.org/2022/05/10/tone-policing-and-the-assertion-of-authority/
  4. Essed, P. (1991). Understanding everyday racism: An interdisciplinary theory. Sage Publications, Inc.
  5. EDLAB. (2020, September 11). Webinar: Decolonizing the Curriculum with Aincre Evans| 9 sept 2020 [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cOIzUtWN34


"When they speak it is scientific;
when we speak it is unscientific.
Universal / specific;
objective / subjective;
neutral / personal;
rational / emotional;
impartial / partial;
they have facts, we have opinions;
they have knowledge, we have experiences."

- Grada Kilomba, Plantation Memories


Episode #4

Will the real progressives please stand up?

Ok, let’s all sit down for a moment. One thing we learned over the past months of doing this podcast is that everyone seems to think that they are the real progressives while the others simply are not. The Others are either too conservative, too ‘woke’, too blinded by the system, too unreasonable, unscientific, against academic freedom or not really interested in addressing questions of social injustice. For this episode, Darian and Constance try to make some sense of these claims to ‘real’ progressivism. 

 We talk about Nina Simone’s lyrics about ‘do it slow’.
        Listen to the whole song: Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam 

Episode #3

Are universities too left wing for their own good?

Are universities too left wing for their own good? Andreas de Block, the author of a forthcoming book Is links gewoon slimmer [Is the left just smarter?] thinks so, and he’s worried about the effect it’s having on research. We try to figure out what he means, what worries him and ask some questions about what it means to be left or right wing in today’s political and academic context. These questions include: What are conservative values that are being neglected by too left-wing scientists? Are contemporary right-wing politics inherently anti-science and anti-intellectual? And how do these concerns about ideological bias in the university relate to conflicts between ‘woke’ and anti-’woke’ self-identifying leftists in the academy? 

 Trigger Warning: this episode includes discussions on perceptions of homosexuality and its relation to previous versions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This episode also contains some mockery of the Republican Party (USA). 

Reference list

  • Green, L. (2017). Because They Are Universities. Daily Nous. Retrieved 28-02-2023: https://dailynous.com/2017/09/18/because-they-are-universities/
  • Gross, N. (2013). Why are Professors Liberal and why do Conservatives Care? Harvard University Press.
  • Peters, U., Honeycutt, N., De Block, A. & Jussim, L. (2020). Ideological diversity, hostility, and discrimination in philosophy. Philosophical Psychology, 33(4), 511-548, DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2020.1743257
Episode #2

!Trigger Warnings!

Trigger Warnings – a common courtesy? An absolute necessity? Student coddling? A first step on the slippery slope towards censorship in our classrooms? It seems the topic of Trigger Warnings (TW) is at least baffling, if not chilling, to teachers whereas many students are baffled precisely by their teachers’ aversion to Trigger Warnings. Enough discussion fodder for us to invite Adina Petre, a psychotherapist specialized in trauma, and discuss the (un)usefulness of Trigger Warnings in higher education.

 Listen to the podcast

 Read the accessible transcript


Episode #1

Intersectionality + intro to podcast

In our first episode, we invite philosopher Dr. Sophie Withaeckx to talk about ‘intersectionality’. Intersectionality has become a commonplace term when talking about social justice and D&I efforts in practice. Plans that try to address anti-racism or gender equality are now also ‘intersectional’. This framing often is sold as a solution to addressing social justice more holistically or fairly - but how does an intersectional lens really work? What insights does it offer? And how do these insights translate into social justice action and concrete policy (or not)? 

 Listen to the podcast

 Read the accessible transcript


Reference list - also suggested by Sophie:

  • Anzaldúa, G. (2012). Borderlands/La Frontera. The new mestiza. Fourth edition. Aunt Lute Books.
  • Collins, P. H. (2000). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Second edition. New York: Routledge.
  • Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 139-167.
  • Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241-1300.
  • Dhawan, N., & Castro Varela, M. d. M. (2016). "What difference does difference make?": Diversity, intersectionality and transnational feminist politics. Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies, 16, 9-43.
  • Hancock, A.-M. (2016). Intersectionality. An intellectual history. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • hooks, b. (1981). Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Boston: South End Press.
  • Tamale, S. (2020). Decolonization and Afro-Feminism. Ottawa: Daraja Press.
  • The Combahee River Collective (1977). The Combahee River Collective Statement. Retrieved from https://combaheerivercollective.weebly.com/ 

The episode refers to gay men as a high-risk group to experience sexual violence. Please see: Dworkin, E. R., Krahé, B., & Zinzow, H. (2021). The global prevalence of sexual assault: A systematic review of international research since 2010. Psychology of Violence, 11(5), 497–508. The link to the article.

Episode #0

Does ‘Wokeness’ threaten Academic Freedom?

Constance and Darian were invited by Dr. Chang Sun from the DSMindsets Podcast to talk about ‘wokeness’ and the perceived threat it carries to academic freedom. We consider this episode #0 because we discuss some basic questions relating social justice, scientific objectivity and the concept of bullshit. We want to thank Chang for hosting us!

 Listen to the podcast

Your hosts


Who are we? 

We are the perceived wokeness-official on the ‘Berg’ (refers to main administrative building of Maastricht University) and a conservative middle aged half west-asian philosopher. Constance Sommerey (on the right) is director of UM’s Diversity and Inclusivity Office. Darian Meacham (on the left) is from the philosophy department of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


Picture of Darian and Constance smiling