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One Of Our Own: On Being A Working Class, Hometown Academic by Lee Crookes


As one of only a handful of Sheffield-born academics at the University of Sheffield, this paper adopts an auto-ethnographical approach to reflect on my experience of being a working-class, ‘hometown academic’ and the advantages, challenges, frustrations and (limited) cultural capital that this brings, highlighting particularly the strong impetus to engage with local communities and do ‘useful’ work – research, teaching or service – that seeks to generate positive local impacts.

I explore the shifting emotions and geographies of my local rootedness, (un)belonging and the uncomfortable sense of in-betweenness noted by Hoggart (1957) that shape my academic life and priorities.

Whilst experiencing the sporadic feeling of being a stranger in my hometown and the recurrent sense of being an academic imposter, my capacity to inhabit – and slip between – the environs of the campus and the everyday spaces of the city beyond, I argue, provides a basis for creative transgression, doing things differently and scope for a healthy injection of working-class counter-culture, collective solidarity and humour.

At the same time, this feeling of being ‘out-of-place’ and not knowing my place to some extent frees me from the conventional norms and expectations of what a university academic should do and be and this state of ‘anachorism’ (Cresswell, 2004) provides an opportunity for me to creatively cross borders and find my own locally-focused space and academic identity that persistently seeks to mobilise the resources of the university to benefit local, working-class people.

In the context of a beloved hometown that is suffering harsh and deepening inequalities the need for such a reorientation is long overdue. In turn, the need for compassionate, working-class academics who can broker trusting relationships within and beyond the university and reconnect (home-)town and gown has arguably never been greater.

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Ragged University is in partnership with the Working Class Academics conference sharing its ideals and love of open intellectual spaces

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