Panel C.08 — University studies and changes in habitus

Convenors Elena Gremigni (University of Pisa, Italy); Emanuela Susca (University of Urbino “Carlo Bo”)

Keywords higher education; cultural capital; habitus; first-generation students


University education can play a significant role in fostering the transition of those from disadvantaged backgrounds to superordinate social positions, even in countries like Italy, where social origin appears directly correlated with the chance of finding a job regardless of the level of studies attained (Ballarino and Bernardi, 2016; 2020). The benefits associated with university studies consist not only in the acquisition of institutionalized cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1979) helpful in finding employment but also in the acquisition of internalized dispositions that modify original categories, values, interests, and behavioral patterns with positive consequences on lifestyle, active citizenship, and the quality of cultural consumption (Stefanini, Albonico and Maciocco, 2007; Oreopoulos and Salvanes, 2011; Assirelli, 2014; Ma, Pender and Welch, 2016; Parziale, 2019). This panel seeks to show how students from low-income families with low educational credentials (first-generation students), who manage to gain access to university pathways by overcoming obstacles related to their social origin, can acquire a new habitus that, in some cases, contrasts with the internalized dispositions assimilated within the family, social class, or class fraction to which they belong. This circumstance can generate a condition of habitus clivé (Bourdieu and Sayad, 1964; Bourdieu, 2004), that is, a split habitus that risks undermining the very identity of the social agent. Attempting to overcome this cleavage that produces an “unhappy consciousness” may move in the direction of giving up legitimate aspirations for social mobility or toward a detachment from one’s roots, with painful consequences on the affective level (Lee and Kramer, 2013; Friedman, 2016). On the other hand, this condition can reverberate in relationships with their family members and peers by producing positive effects and fostering forms of reflexivity that are difficult to acquire.

In this framework, authors are invited to discuss the non-economic changes produced by university studies on disadvantaged students, in the following fields:

– Active citizenship

– Lifestyle

– Cultural consumption

– Family and peer relationships

Both theoretical contributions and empirical research on these topics are welcomed.


Guidelines and abstracts submission