Navigating Academia in the ‘Welfare-class’


  • Emma Penney
  • Laura Lovejoy



Welfare-class, alienation, academia


The growing field of working-class studies provides a valuable narrative of the experiences of working-class academics, illustrates commonalities among such experiences and provides a space for dismantling the structural class-based disenfranchisement which proves detrimental to working-class scholars’ careers. Recent articles in The Journal of Working-class Studies have identified and named the specific experiences of alienation faced by working-class scholars, which include issues of financial disenfranchisement, issues of taste, accent, and ‘respectability’ (Attfield 2016), issues of ‘passing’, the imposter syndrome, and feelings of class betrayal (Warnock 2016). However, as Nicola Wilson (2016) and others have noted, ‘working-class is a fluid category and grouping’. For many scholars living in or emerging from a background of poverty, the term ‘working-class’ is limited. The term ‘welfare-class’ more appropriately describes the experience of some poor and welfare-reliant scholars. Considering the welfareclass as a distinct category within the working or poor classes, this article documents some of the specific experiences of alienation which pertain to being welfare-class in academia by focusing on the lived experiences of the authors, two academics at postgraduate and postdoctoral level. The article aims to contribute to the representation of poor and welfare-class academics among the growing body of autobiographical and autoethnographic knowledge (Warnock 2016) in working-class studies.