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Rise With Your Class, Not Out Of Your Class by Chloe Maclean


Despite rising numbers of working class students entering higher education (HE), HE remains an institution dominated by the middle classes and by white middle class values particularly so within ‘elite’ institutions.

As a consequence, working class students within HE often experience a cleft habitus whereby their experiences, embodied knowledges and tastes are at odds and come into conflict with the expectations and practices within HE.

Alongside a hierarchical valuing of middle class values, working class students’ cleft habitus produces feelings of being an ‘imposter’ whereby class-negotiating tactics are often utilised to fit in or get by. Through auto-ethnographic reflections of my experiences as a working class, ‘first generation’, student at a Russell group university, this paper situates my cleft habitus as resulting in and from structural and embodied ‘class conflict’ within HE. Within this class conflict, my working-class habitus is both a source of feelings of inadequacy and ‘not belonging’, and provides tools for survival and resistance within HE.

This paper seeks to illuminate ways in which a working class habitus can be utilised as a resource for accomplishment within HE, and as resistance to HE’s middle class values and the rhetoric of working class adoption of middle class values as ‘social progression’.

This chapter subsequently suggests that a cleft habitus is not solely a site of dislocation, but can be utilised as a resource to challenge the reproduction of hierarchies within an institution.

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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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