Dr Darren Webb


School of Education

Deputy Director of Research

Senior Lecturer in Education

+44 114 222 7084

Full contact details

Dr Darren Webb
School of Education
The Wave
2 Whitham Road
S10 2AH
Research interests

My research touches on two areas, which are distinct but interrelated.


I am interested in hope as a human experience. In particular, how hope is constructed in and through social institutions such as education and how hope might be mobilised in the service of revolutionary politics.

A decade or so ago I developed a framework for exploring hope as a differentiated experience with complex effects and affects.

This “modes of hoping” framework has subsequently been used by researchers to explore a range of issues within education and childhood studies: from understanding hope as experienced by children faced with the likely loss of a parent through illness, to examining the role of hope in the context of children living with chronic pain, to exploring the role of hope in shaping young people’s aspirations for higher education.

One particular area in which the “modes of hoping” framework is proving useful is exploring the issue of planetary health and expanding the parameters of environmental education.

This is a research programme that interests me greatly, especially as it relates closely to utopia and utopianism, drawing on the rich history of utopian ideas to underpin the search for alternative ways of being on a planetary scale.


Over the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in the pedagogical practices of the “utopian” educator. How does a committed utopist bring this commitment to bear on their role as an educator? Can there be such a thing as utopian pedagogy? Or a utopian pedagogue? Where and how can/should utopian pedagogy best operate?

I have attempted to address these questions through both conventional academic research (see Publications) and various talks and public engagement activities (see Activities). I am currently working on a book, as part of the Ralahine Utopian Studies Series, titled: Utopian Subjectivities: Hope, Education and the Radical Imagination.

Is there a need for utopian thinking today?

This was the title of a workshop convened as part of Sheffield’s Festival of Debate 2017 by myself and Max Munday. See the article we wrote for Now Then magazine here. The article was provocatively titled “Utopia in Sheffield: We Have to Start Somewhere” because the aim of the workshop was to start the process of building a grass-roots utopia around which workers, campaigners and activists can mobilise.

The initial workshop went well, attracting around 60 local workers, artists and activists with a wide range of political perspectives. There was lively discussion and debate and we agreed to carry this forward under the banner of Sheffield Utopia. Read my reflections here. If you’re genuinely interested in working together, collectively and collaboratively, to build a grass-roots utopia, you can join us here.

Research group

#supervisionaries - stories of brilliant doctoral supervision

Darren continuously encourages me to find my own voice and my own specific frame within the field I'm working in. His comments and feedback are always useful and points me towards additional sources. He suggests events and further reading that help grow my understanding and also replies to emails at super speed which allows me to get on with my work if I happen to be stuck.

Teaching interests

I developed the School’s first undergraduate programme, the BA Education, Culture and Childhood, and led the programme from 2011 to 2018. During this time the programme more than doubled in size and is now a central part of the School’s portfolio and identity.

On the BA I teach the first year module Introduction to the Sociology of Education, the second year module Dimensions of Education Policy and the third year module Education@Sheffield.

I teach on the MA modules Critical Issues in Education and Educational Research, Globalisation and Education, and the MA Study of Education programme. I am currently developing a module on Curriculum and Pedagogy as part of the School’s EdD.

I supervise a number of doctoral students researching, in various ways and with different foci, the broad area of critical/radical pedagogy.

Professional activities and memberships

Public engagement

I have given various public talks on utopia, utopian pedagogy and the need for utopian thinking:

April 2019: “Utopia in the Classroom.” Keynote address to the annual conference of the Geographical Association, the biggest teacher CPD event of its kind. Details here.

September 2018. “Dystopia and Resistance.” Multi-media installation for the Festival of the Mind Exhibition in Sheffield. Details here.

January 2018. “Educational Archaeology.” Session for the Radical Pedagogies Teaching Forum in Kent. Details here.

January 2018. “Utopian Pedagogy.” Talk for the Philosophy of Education Seminar Series, Institute of Education, London. Details here.

October 2017. “The Need for Utopian Thinking.” Talk for Off the Shelf Festival in Sheffield. Details here.

September 2017. “Utopia.Now.Here.” Talk for Ignite Academy Sheffield. Details here.

May 2017. “Utopia in Sheffield: We Have to Start Somewhere.” Workshop for Festival of Debate in Sheffield. Details here.



Webb D (forthcoming) Rethinking Schools: Transformative Hope and Utopian Possibility. Educational Theory.

Webb D (2024) Hope and the Utopian Impulse. In N. Snow (ed) The Virtue of Hope. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.277-309.

Webb D (2023) Ah Bartleby! Study, Learning and Pedagogy in Occupy Wall Street. Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 45(3): 285-309.

Webb D (2022) Education. In F. Vieira, J. Wagner-Lawlor and P. Marks (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literatures. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp.605-616.

Webb D (2020) The Domestication of Utopia and the Climate Crisis. Mediazioni No.27.

Webb D (2019a) Prefigurative Politics, Utopian Desire and Social Movement Learning: Reflections on the Pedagogical Lacunae in Occupy Wall Street. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies 17(2), 204-245.

Webb D. (2019b) Education and the Construction of Hope. In R. Green (ed) Theories of Hope: Exploring Alternative Affective Dimensions of Human Experience. Lanham MD: Lexington, 131-154.

Webb D (2018) Bolt-holes and Breathing Spaces in the System: On Forms of Academic Resistance (or, Can the University be a Site of Utopian Possibility?). Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies 40(2), 96-118.

Webb D. (2017) Educational Archaeology and the Practice of Utopian Pedagogy. Pedagogy, Culture and Society 25(4), 551-566.

Webb D (2016) Educational Studies and the Domestication of Utopia. British Journal of Educational Studies 64(4), 431-448.

Webb D (2013a) Pedagogies of Hope. Studies in the Philosophy of Education 32(4), 397-414.

Webb D (2013b) Critical Pedagogy, Utopia and the Politics of (Dis)engagement. Power and Education 5(3), 280-290.

Webb D (2012) Process, Orientation, and System: The Pedagogical Operation of Utopia in the Work of Paulo Freire. Educational Theory 62(5), 593-608.

Webb D (2010) Paulo Freire and “the need for a kind of education in hope.” Cambridge Journal of Education 40(4), 327-339.

Webb D (2009) Where's the Vision? The Concept of Utopia in Contemporary Educational Theory. Oxford Review of Education 35(6), 743-760.