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Talking the talk and fitting in: Troubling the practices of speaking 'what you are worth' in Higher Education in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Michelle Addison, Dr Victoria Mountford-BrownORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd, 2015.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


In this article we raise questions about fitting in pertaining to various classed identities within two UK Higher Education Institutions. We discuss the pains and privileges attached to accent and ways of speaking worth: Who is able to mobilize and capitalize on inscribed values, as they come to be attached to ways of talking? Accents and ways of talking are part of embodied class identities and whilst some carry connotations of intelligence, other ways of talking are positioned as lacking value, as well as other cultural meanings (Sayer 2002; Spencer, Clegg and Stackhouse 2013; Lawler 1999; Skeggs 1997; Southerton 2002; Taylor 2007; MacFarlane and Stuart-Smith 2012). In this article we discuss our empirical research carried out in two separate qualitative ESRC-funded research projects in the north of England with undergraduate students (Author B) and university staff (Author A). Focusing primarily on white British ways of talking, we examine how embodying particular accents or ways of talking affect classed notions of ‘fitting in’ or ‘standing out’ (Reay, Crozier and Clayton 2009: 1; Abraham and Ingram, 2013) in HE. In a climate of uncertainty in Higher Education we are concerned that the importance of demonstrating one’s impact, value and worth comes down to more than just productivity, it is becoming demonstrably about being able to ‘talk the talk’ and we trouble the practices of speaking ‘what you are worth’.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Addison M, Mountford V

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sociological Research Online

Year: 2015

Volume: 20

Issue: 2

Online publication date: 01/06/2015

Acceptance date: 02/02/2015

Date deposited: 24/09/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2328-5184

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.5153/sro.3575


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