6. Emma Penny on Working Class Studies, Activism and Culture

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Emma Penney is a working class academic whose work contributes to the exciting and ever-expanding field of ‘Working Class Studies’. She is also an activist and archivist who is committed to celebrating the still woefully under-recognised and ignored arts and praxis of working class communities in Ireland. Now based in Sligo, Emma is a lecturer in the Atlantic Technological University and she’s also a joint founder, with the poet and activist Sophie Meehan, of the extraordinary online Working-Class Writing Archive.
In this episode, Emma talks about the importance of her self-identification as a working class academic, and why she has used the term ‘welfare class’ to capture her embodied experiences of life and work in the purportedly class free environment of the university.
Emma is currently completing a book for Liverpool University Press, entitled: ‘Women Writing the Margins: Working-Class Writing and Activism in Ireland’s Second Wave Feminist Movement’. Here she discusses the distinctive forms of feminism and creativity that emerged from working class women’s groups during the 1980s and 1990s, but which often operated below the radar of state funding and employment scheme priorities, or indeed academic interest. The importance of archival work is a central theme in this interview, and Emma explains the origins and rationale behind the online Working-Class Writing Archive, and her hopes for its future.
She also reads some poetry, giving listeners a brief but beautiful taster of the cultural practice of the working class communities, poets and writers whose work constitutes the archive.
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