Dr Aneesh Barai

School of Education

Lecturer in Education and Children's Culture

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+44 114 222 8167

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Dr Aneesh Barai
School of Education
The Wave
2 Whitham Road
S10 2AH

I am an interdisciplinary researcher working on cultural representations of education, and connections between education history and philosophy with literature and cinema, particularly children’s literature, film and television.

Prior to joining Sheffield in May 2020, I was a Lecturer in Education and Social Justice at the University of Birmingham, and taught at Newcastle University, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Queen Mary, University of London.

At Sheffield, I am Director of the ‘Childhood and Youth’ research cluster, and work mainly in children’s digital cultures.


BA (Oxford)

MSc (Edinburgh); PGCert (QMUL)


I obtained the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) with distinction at Queen Mary University of London in 2017, and I am a Fellow of the HEA.

Research interests

I am an interdisciplinary scholar in education and children’s media and culture, working with children’s literature, film, television and games from a range of global and historical contexts.

My current monograph project, which builds from my PhD thesis, is on shifts in cultural attitudes towards childhood in the UK in the 1920s and 30s, as represented through children’s literature by modernist authors (T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein and Langston Hughes).

My research interests include:

-Early twentieth century cultural representations of shifts in education, including in children’s literature, modernist literature and cinema in the period (e.g. Enid Blyton, Geoffrey Trease, D. H. Lawrence, in relation to the educational philosophies of Montessori, Dewey and Piaget).

-The neoliberalisation of higher education, as represented in fantasy novels about wizard universities (e.g. Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, Lev Grossman, Cecilia Tan).

-Youth activism relating to pacifism, climate crisis and LGBTQIA+ youths, in children’s film, television and computer games (e.g. Howl’s Moving Castle, Steven Universe, She-Ra, Final Fantasy VII).

My current projects working with colleagues in the School of Education include:

-Storyland: This project uses participatory collaborative design with children to develop a new inclusive storytelling approach in Virtual Reality for children and is a partnership with Cooperative Innovations. I am working with colleague, Dr Becky Parry, to develop recommendations for participatory and collaborative design in VR.

-Trespass Evaluation: This project takes an innovative approach to participatory research, organised by Dr Becky Parry, and run with the work of two Research Associates, in collaboration with Network Rail and the National Railway Museum. We have also undertaken archival research with the museum into historical campaigns to prevent dangerous behaviour around railway lines, including examining works by Roger Hargreaves, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake made especially for anti-trespass campaigns.

-Dinosaur Roar: This project is in preliminary stages of a collaboration with Nurture Rights. Working with Dr Yinka Olusoga, I am providing an initial review of children’s dinosaur encyclopedias to contribute to further stages of consultation for Nurture Rights as they develop a series of resources to engage children in innovative ways with the lives of dinosaurs.


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Journal articles


All publications

Journal articles


Teaching interests

I firmly believe in making safe and inclusive spaces in my teaching, designing diverse curricula, and valuing my students’ voices.

I previously taught across Education, English and Comparative Literature, with a particular focus on the history and philosophy of education, and on children’s literature and media, including EdD teaching at the University of Birmingham and lecturing in English, Education and Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge.

I currently supervise four doctoral students. I am interested to hear from prospective students for a PhD or EdD who are keen to research children’s literature or media, childhood studies, or cultural representations of education, particularly from the perspective of diverse childhoods or youth activism.

Teaching activities

I am Programme Director for the MA Digital Literacies, Culture and Education. As well as this, I regularly teach and supervise on the BA Education, Culture and Childhood, iPGCE, MA Education, MA Early Childhood Education (Distance), and the EdD programme, and supervise PhD students.

On the BA, I currently contribute to the following modules:

-EDU108 Social and Historical Constructions of Childhood

-EDU110 The Digital University

-EDU205 Children and Digital Cultures

-EDU304 Education@Sheffield

Professional activities and memberships

-Editor for journal Jeunesse: young people, texts, cultures (2021-)

- Regular reviewer for Routledge and for journals including Literacy, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, International Research in Children’s Literature and Utopian Studies