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Is There a Left Way Back From Woke?

September 13, 2023 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0

In his provocative new book, Cancelled: The Left Way Back from Woke, political scientist Professor Umut Özkirimli describes how the Left has been sucked into a spiral of toxic hatred and outrage-mongering, retreating from the democratic ideals of freedom, tolerance and pluralism that it purports to represent. However, he also warns that the radical identity politics of the contemporary Left are mirrored in identitarian tendencies on the Right and advocates an alternative approach in which we rediscover our common humanity and work across differences to find a constructive and consensual way back from “woke”.


“Umut Ozkirimli addresses the more extreme forms of woke-ism in this forthright, often witty examination of contemporary cancel culture… He says he walked into this war zone knowing he’d cop it from both left and right, and he will surely stir things up.” Sydney Morning Herald


“This book will make you think, which is probably what makes it so scary. Özkırımlı’s accessible style helps navigate contentious areas that have, increasingly, been seen as too dangerous to debate. Whatever Side you are on in this increasingly vicious culture war, you would benefit from reading this book. I don’t agree with all of it, but I am sure as hell glad it made it to the shelves.” Julie Bindel, feminist and writer.


Professor Özkirimli will be joined in conversation by two eminent public intellectuals:


Professor Alice Sullivan has been instrumental in providing evidence that clarifies the need to preserve sex-based social categories in data-collection and policy-making. She has also led the UK pushback against the culture of ‘no debate’ about gender theory within and beyond academia, including rallying academics at University College London to vote to detach the university from Stonewall and ensuring that academic freedom is upheld.


Dr Ashley Frawley is one of the most interesting contemporary critics of identity politics and therapy culture – the prioritising of emotion in public life – bringing her research and insights to a wider audience through frequent engagement with traditional and new media.


The panel will discuss Professor Özkirimli’s book and how those on the Left and the politically homeless can be encouraged to reject the divisiveness of ‘woke’ politics and stand up for freedom of speech and democratic values. As ever, there will be plenty of time for audience Q and A.




Umut Özkırımlı is a Senior Research Fellow at IBEI (Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals), a professor at Blanquerna, Ramon Llull University, and a Senior Research Associate at CIDOB (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs). He is also the Academic Director of the Barcelona Summer School of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He is the author of the acclaimed Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, currently in its third edition. His writings appear frequently in The Guardian, openDemocracy, Times Higher Education, Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, among others.


Alice Sullivan is Professor of Sociology at University College London (UCL) and Head of Research at the UCL Social Research Institute. Her research focusses on social and educational inequalities in the life course. She has made extensive use of secondary data analysis of large-scale longitudinal data sets in her research, with a particular focus on the British birth cohort studies of 1958, 1970 and 2000. She has published on areas including: social class and sex differences in educational attainment, single-sex and co-educational schooling, private and grammar schools, cultural capital, reading for pleasure, social mobility, health inequalities. She is on the Advisory Group of Sex Matters and co-author, with Selina Todd, of a new book, Sex and Gender: A Contemporary Reader.


Dr Ashley Frawley is Associate Professor of Sociology at Swansea University, where she lectures on social problems, the economics of social policy, parenting culture and the sociology of health and illness. She is a commissioning editor at Sublation Press, host of the Based AF podcast, and contributing editor of Compact magazine. Her research and writing explore the rising importance attributed to emotions and behaviour in an era of ‘no alternative’ to capitalism. She is particularly interested in ‘vulnerable’ constructions of human subjects in the rhetoric of new social problems. Her most recent book is Significant Emotions: Rhetoric and Social Problems in a Vulnerable Age, to be published by Bloomsbury in November 2023.




Dr Jan Macvarish, Education and Events Director of the Free Speech Union.


The Free Speech Union is a non-partisan, mass membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members.




Please note that in-person tickets to this event have now sold out. The event will be live-streamed to FSU members, meaning you are still able to attend online. Please register using the Zoom link supplied in emails from FSU Events.
Attend Online: FSU members will be sent a link so they can attend this event on Zoom.


September 13, 2023
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm UTC+0
Event Category:


The Free Speech Union
020 3920 7865
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