First Generation and the Unfamiliar Academy

by: Ed Brantmeier

Making the familiar strange, the strange familiar—this is the work of ethnography from the vantage point of an anthropologist whose name escapes me at the moment. In terms of first generation college status — I call a related concept “dual alienation.”  In informal conversations I’ve had with faculty and students who are the first in their families to attend college, they seem to “not quite fit” in the Academy and after they attended college for a while, several have reported they don’t quite fit in their home communities and sometimes their family context any longer.  Dual alienation— these individuals no longer quite fit in the world of work and the world of home.  In his book Limbo: Blue–Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, Alfred Lubrano calls these people who occupy liminal spaces “Straddlers.” First generation students and faculty, sometimes an invisible minority, experience a different set of struggles than the rest who may have the social and cultural capital revered by the Academy.  My own experience as a First Generation faculty has been one of making the strange familiar, and in the process, the familiar has become strange.  Understanding the complex cultural terrain of the life of the University requires an ethnographic eye for the behaviors, values, and material realities valued in that system.

Join us for the First Gen FIG on Friday if you identify with these musings…

In peace, Ed Brantmeier

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