“People Like Us”: Theorizing First-Generation College as a Marker of Difference


  • Chase Bollig Gonzaga University




first-generation college students, working-class, race, composition studies, literacy sponsorship


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.

Author Biography

Chase Bollig, Gonzaga University

Chase Bollig is an Assistant Professor of English at Gonzaga University. His work has appeared in College Composition and Communication.




How to Cite

Bollig, C. (2019). “People Like Us”: Theorizing First-Generation College as a Marker of Difference. Literacy in Composition Studies, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.21623/