Research has long pointed out that university students coming from a familial and social context where the university experience is something “new”, display both lower rate of enrolling in university and higher rate of leaving university before obtaining a degree (Brinbaum & Guégnard, 2013; Deer, 2005; Triventi & Trivellato, 2009). While studies have shown that there has been a process equalization in the probability to obtain a secondary school degree, scholars are increasingly stressing today that the access and the completion of university education constitute the key field to explore the production and reproduction of educational and social inequalities (Duru-Bellat, 2006; Marginson, 2016; Shavit et al., 2007).
Dialoguing with a wide and prolific strain of research that have explored the university attainment ad experience of the first-generation-university students (Spiegler & Bednarek, 2013), aim of my presentation will be to discuss the firsts results of an ongoing qualitative research project investigating the processes of access and social integration students coming from Italian working class and immigrants families within an Italian academic setting.
In particular, by looking at these relatively “atypical” university students characterized by the novelty of the university experience within their family biographies, the objective of the qualitative ongoing research I will present is twofold. The first one is to explore the cognitive-relational framework pushing FGS toward an ascendant mobility life trajectory and conditioning their university choices (Ball et al. 2002). The second one is to analyze how multiple social identifications based on social class, gender and migratory background, as well as their intersections, may condition FGS access and social integration within the university setting (Lee & LaDousa, 2015).
This project is based on two main theoretical-methodological contributions: the work of Pierre Bourdieu and the intersectionality approach. It is well known, that the intertwined concepts of habitus, cultural capital and field constitute a crucial theoretical underpinning to account for FGS relationship with the academic field (Ingram, 2009; Stahl, 2013). These concepts constitute a key theoretical underpinning of the project (see Lareau & Weininger, 2003 for a key reflection on their use in qualitative research). However, it has been stressed that Bourdieu design a bi-dimensional theoretical space (McCall, 1992) and that subjects are positioned contextually on multiple axis of social inequalities which contribute to co-define their habitus (Rollock, 2014). Therefore, this research aim to enrich the theoretical reading of FGS access and integration within the university field through the use of the intersectionality perspective (Anthias, 2013; Crenshaw, 1991). In this framework, I propose a multi-dimensional design of the university field which: a) will account for axis of social differentiation defined not only by the possession of cultural capital (Bourdieu 1989; Ball et al. 2015); and b) will allow to overcome an excessively deterministic reading of the habitus by showing how the intersections of multiple positionalities open-up spaces for agency, practices of resistance, contestations and symbolic constructions which can produce social change (Bagguley & Hussain, 2016) .
The project is at its initial phase and my contribution to the panel discussion will be twofold. I will present evidences emerged from the research field to be carried out in February-April 2017 and I will share methodological and theoretical reflections on how to combine different theoretical concepts to explore both micro-practices of socio-relational closure as well as the practice of FGSs’ adaptation to the social ad academic requests characterizing the university experience.
Anthias, F. (2013). Intersectional what? Social divisions, intersectionality and levels of analysis. Ethnicities, 13(1), 3–19. Bagguley, P., & Hussain, Y. (2016). Negotiating Mobility: South Asian Women and Higher Education. Sociology, 50(1), 43–59. Ball, S. J., Reay, D., & David, M. (2002). “Ethnic Choosing”: Minority ethnic students, social class and higher education choice. Race Ethnicity and Education, 5(4), 333–357. Brinbaum, Y., & Guégnard, C. (2013). Choices and enrollments in French secondary and higher education: repercussions for second-generation immigrants. Comparative Education Review, 57(3), 481–502. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics and violence against women of color. Standford Law Review, 43, 1241–99. Deer, C. (2005). Higher education access and expansion: the French experience. Higher Education Quarterly, 59(3), 230–241. Duru-Bellat, M. (2006). L’inflation scolaire. Les désillusions de la méritocratie. Paris: Seuil et La republique des idees. Ingram, N. (2009). Working-class boys, educational success and the misrecognition of working-class culture. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(4), 421–434. Lee, E. M., & LaDousa, C. (2015). College Students’ Experiences of Power and Marginality: Sharing Spaces and Negotiating Differences. Routledge. Marginson, S. (2016). The worldwide trend to high participation higher education: dynamics of social stratification in inclusive systems. Higher Education. McCall, L. (1992). Does gender fit? Bourdieu, feminism and conceptions of social order. Theory and Society, 21(6), 837–867. Pascarella, E. T., Pierson, C. T., Wolniak, G. C., & Terenzini, P. T. (2004). First-generation college students: Additional evidence on college experiences and outcomes. Journal of Higher Education, 249–284. Reay, D. (1998). “Always knowing” and “never being sure”: familial and institutional habituses and higher education choice. Journal of Education Policy, 13(4), 519–529. Rollock, N. (2014). Race, Class and “The Harmony of Dispositions.” Sociology, 48(3), 445–451. Shavit, Y., Arum, R., & Gamoran, A. (2007). Stratification in higher education: a comparative study. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Spiegler, T., & Bednarek, A. (2013). First-generation students: what we ask, what we know and what it means: an international review of the state of research. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 23(4), 318–337. Stahl, G. (2013). Habitus Disjunctures, Reflexivity and White Working-Class Boys’ Conceptions of Status in Learner and Social Identities. Sociological Research Online, 18(3), 2. Triventi, M., & Trivellato, P. (2009). Participation, performance and inequality in Italian higher education in the 20th century: Evidence from the Italian Longitudinal Household Survey. Higher Education, 57(6), 681–702.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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