“People Like Us”: Theorizing First-Generation College as a Marker of Difference
Although composition scholars have long advocated for working-class and under-represented populations on campus, the emergence of “first-generation college” as a marker of difference in public, administrative, and scholarly discourses invites further consideration of how we theorize this marker. As a bureaucratic marker (originating in higher education administration) that exhibits potential for organizing students for self-advocacy across difference, “first-generation college” warrants particular attention from scholars interested in the intersections between literacy studies and rhetoric. This article initiates a conversation about FGC as a marker of difference, observing that the bureaucratic and rhetorical nature of “first-generation college” as a marker necessitates a constitutive rhetorical approach to the term, an investigation of how the use of the term articulates a literate positionality, situates it within local and cultural narratives, and assigns it value. Placing composition scholarship in conversation with interviews with 17 first-generation college and low-income students and alumni of a large state university, this article reads first-generation college literate positionality in light of students’ own use of the identifier and within the context of their accounts of navigating class difference in college.
LiCS is committed to an online open-access publishing model that encourages collaboration, innovation, and a broader dissemination of research and ideas. Submissions should be original, previously unpublished work not currently submitted for publication elsewhere. We do not charge authors publication fees. Authors retain the copyright to their work as well as an exclusive right to publishing without restrictions; readers may use the work following the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.