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Leonie Smith: A Conceptual Analysis of Impostor Syndrome and Class in Academia

Time Wednesday 16 March, 2022 at 13:15 - 15:00
Place Online in Zoom

The Research Seminar Series in Philosophy invites you to a guest lecture with Leonie Smith, Cardiff, "A Conceptual Analysis of Impostor Syndrome and Class in Academia".

Abstract: Impostor syndrome (or ‘impostor ‘phenomenon’), describes “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness” in which, despite outward success, individuals “persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise” (Clance and Imes, 1978: 241). These beliefs are generally accompanied by various negative achievement-related emotional states, including fear, anxiety and depression (Langford and Clance, 1993).

However, although often linked, it is at least conceptually possible for these non-competence impostor beliefs and the achievement-related negative emotional and behavioural states, to come apart, in cases currently categorised under the banner of impostor syndrome.

Using accounts of working-class experiences of academia (often self-described as ‘impostor syndrome’), I identify that it is not only a possibility that people might experience the achievement-related negative emotional and behavioural states typically associated with impostor syndrome, without these states being caused by non-competence impostor beliefs, it is the reality, for many of those who are successful but marginalised in academia on the basis of their originating socioeconomic class.

I further argue that paying attention to these cases ought to lead us to re-assess the value of our concept of impostor syndrome for describing the experiences of this group altogether. Concepts have power, and set limits on the solutions available, for both the affected and unaffected. We need to carefully delineate the negative emotional and behavioural experiences of working-class academics as stemming from a common cause, if we want our concepts not to allow certain forms of structural harm on the basis of class to remain under the radar. And this may mean embracing a new way to view our experiences altogether.

All interested are welcome to participate in this seminar.

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Event type: Seminar
Pär Sundström
Read about Pär Sundström