Affect, Ambivalence and Nostalgia: Experiencing Working-Class Identities in Higher Education

Loveday, Vik. 2011. Affect, Ambivalence and Nostalgia: Experiencing Working-Class Identities in Higher Education. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is concerned with the different ways in which working-class identities are experienced, performed and articulated in Higher Education (HE). Taking the narrative production of life stories as the primary research method, three groups of individuals who work or study in HE were interviewed, all of whom came from working-class backgrounds. This thesis examines the way in which these participants were enabled or constrained in ‘telling’ their class, and thus producing class-based identities. Class is demonstrated as being a central identificatory concept for many of the participants in this project and in attempting to move beyond assumptions that equate working-class participation in HE with ‘escape’, their involvement is reconceptualized here in terms of a fugitive resistance to the dominant norms of the university. As participants negotiate a field which is framed as conferring value, but which conversely may act to make the working-class subject feel as if they are lacking, the participants’ experiences become characterized by ambivalence. This thesis analyses both the mechanisms which facilitate the positioning of certain subjects as ‘valueless’ and, correspondingly, the types of strategies implemented to defend the self. In particular, this thesis details how the negative affects circulating in HE institutions have the capacity to attach themselves to particular bodies more easily than others. Arguing that given the right kind of resources a subject may defend themselves against such processes, it is contended that certain participants’ nostalgic relationships to the past offer a critical approach to the analysis of contemporary classed relationships. This thesis establishes the extent to which participation in HE involves assimilation by asking how the working-class subject might be able to transcend discriminatory categorizations without the compromise of their classed identities.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Ideas from this thesis are more fully explored in the following articles:

Loveday, Vik. 2014. Working-Class Participation, Middle-Class Aspiration? Value, Upward Mobility and Symbolic Indebtedness in Higher Education. The Sociological Review, pp. 1-22. ISSN 1467-954X

Loveday, Vik. 2014. ‘Flat-capping it’: Memory, nostalgia and value in retroactive male working-class identification. European Journal of Cultural Studies, pp. 1-14. ISSN 1367-5494


social class, identity, Higher Education, affect, nostalgia, ambivalence, mobility, fugitivity.

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14 July 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 14:40

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2022 22:04


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