Recording available: 'How and for what can one hope? Orientations toward the university in ruins'

25 Jun 2024
Decorative image of a building with flowers as a symbol of hope.

How and for what can one hope? Orientations toward the university in ruins

Dr Darren Webb, University of Sheffield

This event took place on 13th June 2024.

Event recording


'Hope’s what we’re doing. Performing hope, treading water in open ocean with no rescue in sight' (Cory Doctorow, 2017. Walkaway. Tor Books: 286).

To say that the university is “in ruins” is hardly shocking. Bill Readings’ seminal text was published nearly thirty years ago now and Critical University Studies has subsequently become an established academic field with its own extensive body of literature. Rather than rehearsing the already well-rehearsed critiques of the contemporary academy, my aim in this seminar is to explore what a hopeful response to the university in ruins might look and feel like. Given the realities of what has variously been termed the corporate, neoliberal, colonizing, imperial, institutionally racist, toxic, zombie and, indeed, hopeless, university, how and for what can one hope? I begin by discussing critiques of hope itself, i.e., arguments that we are better placed to deal with the troubles of the present without it. After defending hope’s futurity, I survey a range of different hopeful orientations under three broad headings: hoping against hope; insurgent hope; and radical hope. These each present differing ways in which we, both individually and collectively, can orient ourselves toward higher education futures. The modes of hoping outlined here are directed toward differing objectives (different conceptualisations of the academy’s futurity) and differ in terms of their cognitive, affective and behavioural dimensions (they articulate and call forth differing responses). The aim of the seminar is to provoke reflection and discussion about how and for what we (you, me, us) can presently hope.


Dr Darren Webb | Education | The University of Sheffield