Frances Lee Essay on Culture of Activism Strikes a Chord


A personal essay by second-year Cultural Studies student Frances Lee has struck a cultural chord and gone viral.

Entitled “Kin Aesthetics: Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice,” Lee’s essay explores the culture and climate of current activism.  From a perspective deeply committed to and involved in social justice work, it raises hard questions about community practices of self-policing and judgment that can curtail potential dialogue and alliance. At once personal, reflective, observant, and analytic, the essay draws parallels between religious and activist modes of exclusive membership and calls for more generous and compassionate engagement.

First published in Catalyst Wedding Co. on July 10, and then republished on Autostraddle on July 13, the piece has reached over half a million people around the world and counting, according to the publishers and social media accounts. Based on response to the essay, Lee has given interviews on WBEZ 91.3 Chicago Worldview NPR on July 18 and Roundhouse Radio 98.3 Vancouver on July 24, and has a number of forthcoming media appearances.

Lee says that “the essay was a culmination of a solid three years of reflection and being in conversation with others [involved in liberation movements], but my Cultural Studies education helped me frame and finally present it to the public, which is why I am excited to give a shout out to the usefulness of a Cultural Studies analysis beyond professional academia.”

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