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Conference 2021


Register to attend this year’s conference.

Conference 2021



We are Blackburn by Cath Ford. Image of various drawn people.
We are Blackburn by Cath Ford

An Invitation to Participate in the 2nd International Working Class Academics Conference

We invite all working class academics to register for the next International Working Class Academics Conference taking place on July 13/14th 2021.  As last year, we have decided to stay non-institutional and remain as a collective.  Only through that approach have we been able to ensure we remain true to our ethos – ‘a conference FOR working class academics, BY working class academics’.  We will ensure that all delegates are able to attend for free, keep the conference online and fund what is necessary through donations alone.   The principles of collective design, creativity, solidarity, warmth, positivity and care remain all that we need to make this happen.  

Our call this year recognises that 2020 could hardly have been a more horrible year; the misery of a pandemic that has taken lives, wrecked livelihoods and exposed the huge chasms that exist across the globe and within our societies.  The glowing light came through the First International Working-Class Academics Conference still warms many of us.   A gathering of people that brought poetry, film, animation, highly crafted presentations and detailed research and that reached hundreds of others across several continents.  It was a space that had not clearly existed before, but that was enthusiastically populated once it emerged.  We need to do more and keep this valuable and invigorating space strong, alive and walking the earth as a presence, a recognition of our importance and the necessity that we write and speak this ourselves.  We said later that once we came together, we demonstrated that:

‘Working Class is not a problem to be solved

Not an accent to be lost

A savagery to be civilised

A roughness to be polished

A wideness to be assimilated

A society that needs to be mobilised, to be somewhere else.

Nor does it mean that working class is static and immobile without Middle Class academic intervention. Together, we were creating a light that illuminated our realities and each of those realities demonstrated the weaknesses of how we had been portrayed. In response, new ideas developed and these looked more as: working class coupled with achievement: working class as a space of philosophy, art, science;  working class as active creators of knowledge not the passive subject of other people’s;  working class as academics’ (Shukie, 2020)

Through plurality and solidarity we can achieve multiple aims. These will include:

  • We can recognise together the diversity of our working class lives and experiences and reflect on the ways these shape and reshape knowledge.  In this we move beyond what Walkerdine (2020) identifies as the working class stories ‘being pathologized as objects of inquiry, known rather than knowers’ (p.9).
  • Through a collective space, across multiple disciplines, we can challenge the marginalisation of working class voices and highlight the diversity across areas of  expertise.  We maintain the ‘celebration not an apology’ agenda that Kit de Waal brought to us last year.  Not in the suggestion that we all celebrate successes and ignore the serious, continuing issues of classism in the institutions, but a celebration in that we together can be a part of a conference, a collective, that recognises the necessity for change.  We celebrate ourselves with each other, through our art, our science, our diverse knowledges, and our acknowledgement of the path we build by walking together.  
  • Together we will continue the creative explosion of last year’s conference and bring alternative ways of saying what needs to be said.  As a collective, we can make efforts to accommodate every kind of submission possible.  We will welcome traditional presentations, but also embrace innovations  from dance, theatre, song and poetry, to spoken word, sculpture, and painting.  As a collective, we work together to attempt to make things happen.  
  • We unashamedly bring fierce realities to an academic space; recognising that knowledge is  embodied, emotional, powerful and lived not merely thought and compartmentalised.  Antonia Darder (2011) reminds us how the academy too often insists on, ‘minimalizing, or dismissing this embodied expression of cultural identity’ and expects that we change, ‘in order to accommodate elite, masculine racialised sensibilities’ (p.799).  We welcome and embrace the powerful and the lived as significant, rich in meaning, and necessary to share.]

Some of the approaches from last year remain and have been developed: We will arrange small groups so that speakers/ presenters can work together in the time before the conference.  We welcome speakers with much experience, others with none at all.  We welcome students alongside senior academics, narratives as well as detailed research papers.  All are welcome and we hope to create an approach to a conference that is welcoming and inclusive.  We appreciate that we can develop our thinking over much longer than two days so we look forward to working with you before, during and after the conference dates in July.

We have some exciting speakers to launch each day and to close the conference too.  Antonia Darder, Valerie Walkerdine and Lisa McKenzie bring power, energy and tales from lived experiences deep in the academy.   Together with them, we can create a period of inspiration and resolve to press on, demand change, and do so in solidarity.  I will conclude by saying ‘please submit’ and end with the words of Antonia Darder on artists, that we could equally apply to ourselves. Our conference is:

An expression of the soul and a mechanism of salvation…the one place where our bodily articulations could freely participate in public, on [our] own terms…the one place where our souls can scream, our hearts can laugh, our bodies’ sensuality can spill over, or our grief for our sisters and brothers who suffer can flow…without the imprisonment of bourgeois sensibilities that fly high and mighty within university walls’ (Darder, 2011. p.799).   


Darder, A. (2011). Embodiments of Public Pedagogy: the art of soulful resistance. Policy Futures in Education, vol.9, No.6, 2011.  

Walkerdine, V. (2020). What’s Class Got To Do With It?  Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. Doi: 10.1080/01596306.2020.1767939

Key dates:

  • Submission opens: Thursday 18th February 2021.
  • Deadline for submissions: Friday 23rd April 2021.
  • Notification of acceptance: Sunday 16th May 2021.
  • Final conference programme: Wednesday 2nd June 2021.
  • Delegate registration opens: Sunday 7th March 2021.

If you have any questions or enquiries about the event, you can contact the conference organisers.

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Look over the conference themes for some inspiration around what we might include in the conference.  The suggested themes are guides and are not exhaustive, please feel free to suggest alternate themes that better suit your work and that enhance the conference overall.

We have no theme included for COVID19 for instance, but would welcome some responses around this period that is affecting the planet and all of us on it.  What the implications are for working class academics would be something of immense value.

Types of Submission

Moving the conference online brings its own challenges for us collectively and individually.   Look over some suggestions of what we might consider as we plan for this new space of encounter.  Key rule = make choices of design that allow you to be heard.  

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