Grey Academia is a movement and community aiming to highlight and dismantle oppressive structures such as ableism, racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, and misogyny, within modern education by utilizing discussion and aesthetic, as well as promoting diversity within literature and art. It began as an offshoot of Dark Academia, more focused on changing the classist culture and western-centrism of Dark Academia.

Since it was founded in 2019, Grey Academia has developed an aesthetic revolving loosely around punk rock and anarchist, socialist, and intersectional ideas, as well as romanticizing the mundane and accessible.


Grey Academia sentiment was around in early 2019 and the term was originally created by tumblr user bcchnl, however a definition was given to it on August 14 2019 by the tumblr user Acabemia. Acabemia and stickittothedark are two prominent voices (but are able to be criticized in a respectful manner, as Grey academia is about removing monoliths, not creating them) within Grey Academia.

In 2020, Grey Academia continued.


Grey Academia is currently defined as:

  • An academia movement that utilizes individual aesthetic as a form of resistance against stereotypes of academic success, including dismantling of heteronormative, cisnormative, classist, ableist, neurotypical, and racist expectations in secondary and postsecondary settings.
  • Insofar as Grey Academia is agnostic of a single aesthetic, those who follow it are generally united by sharing interest in the quality, equity, and depth of one's own education.
  • Common threads in Grey Academia include punk subcultures, as well as activism and social justice participation.

This is applied in practice by being inclusive to members of all aesthetics. Regardless of your personal aesthetic expressions, you're welcome in grey academia. It is not “Dark Academia but-“. Grey Academia welcomes Dark Academia members, Light Academia members, and others, without asking them to leave their other aesthetics behind. If you're critical of structures of oppression in academia and subsequently in academic aesthetics and media and willing to talk about it, grey academia is open to you.

There are themes that are popular in academia aesthetics that are not in Grey Academia. Where especially Dark Academia and Chaotic Academia are fond of incorporating a lot of alcohol and unhealthy coping mechanisms into their aesthetics, Grey Academia in general lacks those elements as the latter prefers to romanticize healthy coping mechanisms and not sacrificing your health for your education or career.

Common Motifs in the community:

  • Self sustainability- Gardening, (particularly community gardens) farming, cooking, baking, canning, drying, preserving food. Hand making items, anything really to essentially focus towards a healthier lifestyle overall without entirely submitting to a capitalist system
  • Animals and nature are loved and respected in this community. Almost everyone has had, or has a pet, (unless you're studyworks, who has 11). There are also many science majors within the community. We do our best to protect and conserve nature and help animals to the best of our abilities.
  • We are a very chaotic and cryptic group, but with style.
  • This is a strongly LGBTQ+, POC, and religiously diverse group of academics.
  • One of the main focuses is awareness on health in academia: No pulling all nighters studying for that exam, sacrificing sleep and food for work. Self care and mental health especially is important.


There have been several minor controversies, mainly because of miscommunication.

One is that people misunderstand Grey Academia as a judgmental version of Dark Academia (“Dark Academia“) which it is not. Please remember to keep any discussions civil whenever possible.

The second is the use of the Grey Academia tag in purely Dark Academia, Light Academia, and Cottagecore aesthetic posts. It’s frustrating to Grey Academics when the tag gets swamped with content that is not relevant to them.

The third controversy is about Grey Academia's stance on Cottagecore. Grey Academia recognizes that Cottagecore has certain colonialist and white supremacist threads and therefore prefers not to associate directly with the aesthetic. This upsets a lot of white people that do not like their aesthetic having its race problems recognized.

Grey Academia Outings & Things

Camping is popular in Grey Academia

  • Accessible study groups
  • Breaks from studying
  • Thrift-shopping
  • Camping
  • Clothing swaps
  • Protests
  • Mutual aid
  • Sign making
  • Finding PDFs of textbooks and spreading them
  • Open source software
  • Giving others a place to study
  • Mental health help
  • Spreading feminist literature
  • Care for nature
  • Invoking motivation
  • Gardening
  • Baking bread
  • Taking said bread down to the local anarchy center


There is no official list of grey academia titles, however books surrounding activism, with diverse casts, or classic literature from around the globe are all welcome. The following books are enjoyed by various grey academics:

  • Abina and the Important Men by Getz and Clarke
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • Art Of War
  • Bright Siding by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Calling A Wolf A Wolf by Kaveh Akbar
  • Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
  • Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
  • Defying Doomsday by Twelfth Planet Press
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait by Batsheba Demuth
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream And Untold Story Of The Black Women Who Helped Win The Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
  • Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
  • Legends Of Tortall by Tamora Pierce
  • Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway
  • Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
  • No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
  • Rising: Dispatches from the new American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Six Of Crows and its sequel Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  • Soft Science by Franny Choi
  • Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural history by Lauret Savoy
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • This Crown Ain't Worth Much by Hanif Abdurraqib
  • Trace: Memory, History, Race and American Land by lauret Savoy
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine by Paul Nabhan


Grey Academia does not focus on one single art movement or time period, preferring instead to appreciate individual pieces or artists that hold or communicate certain values or aesthetics. Grey academia's stance is that art must be free, accessible, and cheap; art simply for art's sake is celebrated. Understanding art is important, therefore the book Ways of Seeing by John Berger holds a lot of value. As with all media, Grey Academia appreciates diverse sources, and is aware of the medium's history of gatekeeping and elitism.

Popular movements, themes and expressions include:

  • Postmodernism
  • Untitled from Money Makes Money by Barbara Kruger

    E-dadaism and neo dadaism
  • Avant-garde
  • Surrealism
  • Folk artand native art
  • Art zines

    Infinity Mirrored Room-All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins by Yayoi Kusama

  • Graffiti and other street art
  • Calligraphy
  • Collages
  • Whimsy

Individual artists:

  • Yayoi Kusama
  • Keith Haring
  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Barbara Kruger
  • Shepard Fairey

Fashion & Imagery

One of the most defining features of Grey Academia, is its inclusiveness of different fashion or visual aesthetics of academia, recognizing that different factors such as disability, financial situation, and personal choice all play a part in how a person decides to present themselves.

To quote Acabemia:

“Grey Academia is agnostic of a single aesthetic, those who follow it are generally united by sharing interest in the quality, equity, and depth of one's own education”

In practice, it is still an “Academic” aesthetic, as people often post about school, but clothing and other decorative items are varied, allowing for multiple voices to shine through without any light being extinguished. Ballpoint pens, computers, quills, pens, pencils, can all be found within the tag for example. Not everything must be tweed, but tweed is still welcome. Environmentally friendly choices are preferred, such as second hand clothing, item trading, and wearing clothes out. Wearing a mask, if you can, is also considered Grey academia-chic during the covid-19 pandemic.

Trends in wear include:

  • Flannel

    Punk rock outfits? Yes please.

  • Button ups
  • Graphic T-shirts
  • Boots (Combat/Hiking)
  • Leather jackets
  • Masks
  • Scarves
  • Beanies
  • Sweaters
  • Cardigans
  • Pins and patches
  • Mismatched socks
  • Whatever you want


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