Research context

This project created an exploratory space for academics identifying as being of working-class heritage (WCH) to share stories about their biographical roots, and routes into and through academia. Using storytelling methods, we created three interactive comics communicating and celebrating the rich complexities of experience associated with identifying as an academic of working-class experience.
The project aimed to create composite stories which represented to students of WCH in, or considering, postgraduate studies that people with similar lived experiences to them existed in academia. This group of students was chosen as the target audience because research illustrates that growing inequities in wealth in the UK is making it more challenging for students of WCH to access postgraduate studies (see Savage, 2015; Wakeling and Laurison, 2017 and Elliot Major and Machin, 2018). However, through the process of this project, we have come to realise that the audience is much wider than solely people in or contemplating postgraduate studies.

Concept sketch of journey into academia

Story Circle 3 - Emotional work on the study

The lived experiences of academics of WCH are of interest to researchers from multiple disciplinary fields. In many instances, people of WCH, including academics, are positioned as the objects of research by more privileged inquirers, as opposed to the being producers of knowledge about their own lived experiences (Walkerdine, 2021). This can lead to representations of academics of WCH being couched in a limited range of stereotypes such as the plucky socially mobile hero escaping the hopelessness of working-class life in pursuit of an idyllic middle-class existence or the perpetual down-trodden victim (see Brook and Michell, 2012 and
Morley, 2021).

To challenge such pervasive stereotypes, we mobilised a participatory research appraoch using creative narrative methods to articulate the rich cultural wealth of being and becoming an academic of WCH. The study sought to create an inquiry space were through the co-production of knowledge the participants could challenge pervasive stereotypes.