Counterspaces, Counterstructures: Low‐Income, First‐Generation, And Working‐Class Students’ Peer Support At Selective Colleges

Sociological Forum / August 2020

Students around table

Low‐income, first‐generation, and/or working‐class students (LIFGWC) attending selective colleges and universities must navigate class‐dominant spaces, often encountering microaggressions. In this paper, the authors examine how LIFGWC students support themselves and one another by analyzing the efforts of campus groups focused on LIFGWC students’ needs. The authors draw on the framework of counterspaces to show the provision of both peer‐to‐peer social connection and the creation of new services for LIFGWC students, such as career advising. The authors refer to these latter efforts as counterstructures. They introduce this term to highlight the structural location of these efforts and the ways that students are doing work that the college—whether in the form of administrators, staff, or faculty—typically should be doing. The authors contribute both to the understanding of ways that selective campuses underserve LIFGWC students and to research on the use of counterspaces in providing support in majority/minority spaces.