Deindividualising Imposter Syndrome: Imposter Work among Marginalised STEMM Undergraduates in the UK

Órla Meadhbh Murray*, Yuan-Li Tiffany Chiu, Billy Wong, Jo Horsburgh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Imposter syndrome is the experience of persistently feeling like a fraud despite one’s achievements. This article explores student experiences of imposter syndrome, based on 27 interviews with marginalised STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) undergraduates at two pre-1992 elite UK universities. We argue that imposter feelings are a form of unevenly distributed emotional work, which we call imposter work. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s ‘diversity work’ concept we explore how marginalised students’ imposter feelings are often in response to, and reinforced by, the exclusionary atmosphere of university, resulting in more imposter work to survive and thrive at university. Three key themes are explored – the situated and relational nature of imposter feelings; the uneven distribution of imposter work; and the myth of individual overcoming – before concluding with suggestions for collective responses to addressing imposter feelings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-766
Number of pages18
JournalSociology
Volume57
Issue number4
Early online date7 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes

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