Scholars have made important inroads to theorising and understanding working-class people's experiences of higher education (HE), as well as the broader complexities of navigating overlapping and sometimes competing middle- and working-class spaces.
In this chapter, we hope to add to this body of literature through examining the experiences and histories of two working-class women currently in the early stages of academic careers. Through the use of ‘experimental autoethnographies’ (Read & Bradley, 2018) and based on an assemblage of autoethnographic artefacts, we trace our journeys from undergraduate to post-PhD employment, picking up on key moments of pain, disconnect and isolation on the one hand, and celebration, support and pride on the other.
Through the tracing of these key moments in our recent academic trajectories, we make visible the difficulties of navigating elite spaces of academia as women with no family history of HE participation, exploring the ways in which we take on the role as ‘academic translator’ for those around us when discussing the labyrinthine meanings of academe. At the same time, and reflecting on these experiences from the perspective of navigating the margins of academia, we reject the pathologising narratives of working-class people and communities as uninterested in or hostile to HE through the unpacking of joyful moments shared with those around us related to our academic successes.
Finally, we point to ways in which we, as academics – however early career or precariously employed – are now in the position to support marginalised students or colleagues, ending our chapter with a series of practical suggestions for making academia ‘thinkable’ for future generations.
Rowell, C. and Walters, H. (2022), "‘Friends First, Colleagues Second’: A Collaborative Autoethnographic Approach to Exploring Working-Class Women's Experiences of the Neoliberal Academy", Reilly, I.B. (Ed.) The Lives of Working Class Academics, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 41-55. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-80117-057-420221004
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2023 Carli Rowell and Hannah Walters. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited