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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Minority college students-United States-Social conditions, Women college students-United States-Social conditions, Women's colleges-Social aspects-United States, Education, Higher-United States, Elite (Social sciences)-United States, Power (Social sciences)-United States, Classism, Racism in higher education, Higher education, Inequality, Race, Class, Elitism, Privilege, Symbolic violence, Habitus, Symbolic power


While the landscape of U.S. higher education has become increasingly diversified, class and racial minorities continue to face challenges unique to their minority status, including lacking a sense of belonging in the academic and social aspects of college life. Current literature in sociology and education studies illuminate underrepresented students' struggles in gaining access to higher education, as well as the academic problems that persist among students of subordinate groups. Other literature recognizes that while underrepresented students are gaining access to higher education, they are less likely to apply to and attend selective liberal arts schools. However, little scholarship has focused on the academic and social experiences of race and class minorities in the elite educational setting, a setting that has systematically excluded students of underrepresented groups. This case study uses qualitative methods, including historical textual analyses and student and staff interviews, and employs Pierre Bourdieu's theories on symbolic violence, to examine residence life at a selective liberal arts college. Textual analyses and student interviews reveal the ways in which the college's housing system privileges whiteness and affluence at the institutional and student level. Furthermore, findings suggest that the construction and perpetuation of a white affluent narrative within the college's housing system has historically excluded, and continues to exclude, class and racial minority students, which adversely affects their sense of belonging in housing and in the college at large.




82 p. Honors project-Smith College, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 80-82)