The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 16, 2002

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2002 14:01:43 EDT

I am posting this here b/c Freire was, after all, THE educator and theorist
of the "critical interventions" in recent times. Certainly, it is hard to
theorize what BlogLeft is doing without an understanding of Freire's work,
alongside members of the Frankfurt school, the Birmingham Cultural Studies
group and others:

> While the problem of humanization has always, from an axiological point of
> view, been humankind's central problem, it now takes on the character of an
> inescapable concern.

--  Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed [1]

I. Introduction:

As a radical pedagogy and defense of the Third World, Paulo Freire's Pedagogy
of the Oppressed remains as timely as ever.  Rooted in “real and concrete
hunger” experiences and informed by a critical understanding of transnational
social structure and power, since its appearance in English in 1970, Freire's
great text has run alongside (and mostly counter to) the globalization of
technocapital and its resulting cycle of mass extinction and planetary
oppression.  I'll not bother now to further extol its many praises, of which
the book is certainly worthy.  Rather, in the manner of praxis -- which moves
dialectically from an analysis of a concrete situation to an understanding of
the concrete's relation to abstract knowledge and then back again towards a
transformation of the particular situation at hand -- I would like to begin
by analyzing the fact of our present ecological crisis with the intention of
then critically relating it to Freire's own theory as expressed in Pedagogy
of the Oppressed.  I hope thereby to provide both greater illumination of the
limits of our own situation and of the pedagogy proper, with the paper itself
guided by the belief that opportunities must be constructed for future
interventions and alliance-building between those struggling against global
eco-cide and Freirean educators.

When Freire's work is engaged by the reality of the current ecological
crisis, it provides immediate historical insight as to why the people of the
Third World, along with other species of the Earth, have been consistently
denied the rights and privileges accorded those living amidst the advanced
capitalist nations -- there is a logic of domination at work.  As Freire
theorizes, it has always been the mindset of the oppressors to see themselves
as “human,” while those that they prey upon are always less than such; like
animals, they are barred from the prospects of history and the possibilities
inherent in liberatory conduct. [2]   Therefore, it is of little surprise
that people in the Third World and species everywhere currently bear the
great burdens of “sustainable development,” uttered by the global oppressors
as a cure-all for all those already suffering from the previous legacy of
development and imposed transformation of their lifeworlds.  According to
Freire's own thinking, we who stand with the global oppressed should then be
especially dubious, if not in outright objection, of such top-down policy
initiatives as proposed by global states and federations -- policies that are
formed by those who live in great opulence and ease but which are always
directed at those surrounded by despair.  Duly informed by the Pedagogy of
the Oppressed, we might suggest that in contradistinction to the many terrors
now foisted by states and state-minded organizations upon the world, we need
not globalization-from-above, but globalization-from-below. [3]

The idea of mixing a thorough-going critique of power with a sort of
Gramscian-inspired, counter-hegemonic alliance politics is certainly not new
within the Freirean legacy.  I think it is fair to point to movements as
diverse as Critical Pedagogy, the Poststructural-Marxism promoted by Laclau
and Mouffe, recent forms of Revolutionary Multiculturalism and to Borderland
Feminism as promoting a sort of Freireanism fit for today's
anti-globalization set.  Yet, as bell hooks herself testifies, this updating
of Freire's work was often achieved only with great anguish.  Only after
concerted effort were feminist, post-colonial, and multicultural criticisms
of Pedagogy of the Oppressed allowed to stand and be heard within the
Freirean corpus. [4]   Now, as we stand smack dab in the middle of a
planetary eco-crisis, a catastrophe in which global powers will destroy the
peoples and cultures of the Third World along with the species and habitats
of their regions, I would like to ask: Is Freire's work in a position to
mediate and speak with both those who stand beside the global poor and
destitute and those whose deepest commitment is to the entirety of the
natural kingdom?  Can the Freirean corpus itself find agreement with the
multi-faceted movement for eco-justice?

<A HREF="">Click here for the paper in its entirety</A>...This is a piece that I have just
finished for the 3rd Annual International Symposium of Freire's work at UCLA
from 9/18-9/21, 2002.

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

"America is a quarter of a billion people totally misinformed and disinformed
by their government. This is tragic but our media is -- I wouldn't even say
corrupt -- it's just beyond telling us anything that the government doesn't
want us to know."

Gore Vidal

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