Here we have listed some key texts that develop or explore ‘conscientization’.

The idea has been linked with the work of Paulo Freire and Pedagogy of the Oppressed – although Freire used to claim that he had not used the term since the early 1970s as it had been badly misused (Taylor 1993: 52). However, he did not reject the process it was meant to apply to. That of ‘ developing consciousness, but consciousness that is understood to have the power to transform reality’ (op cit)

Conscientization and cultural action

Elias, J. L. (1976) Conscientization and Deschooling. Freire’s and Illich’s proposals for reshaping society, Philadelphia: Westminster Press. 178 pages. Useful review of Freire and Illich with a focus on what Elias sees as their central concepts – conscientization and deschooling.

Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, London: Penguin. 153 pages. One of the most significant books published on education in the second half of the twentieth century. Chapter 1 attempts to justify a pedagogy of the oppressed and explores the relationship of oppressors and the oppressed. Chapter 2 sets out a ‘banking’ concept of education and sets it against a ‘problem-posing’ concept. Education is presented as a world-mediated mutual process, and man as an incomplete being seeking to become more fully human. Chapter 3 is a ‘classic’ chapter, focusing on dialogue and praxis. Dialogics is presented as the essence of education as the practice for freedom. The subject-object relationship is explored and the notion of ‘generative themes’ and how these may awaken critical consciousness is examined. Chapter 4 analyses ‘the theories of cultural action that develop from antidialogical and dialogical matrices’. Includes material on manipulation, cultural invasion (with significant reference to conscientization) co-operation, unity for liberation, organization and cultural synthesis.

Freire, P. (1972) Cultural Action for Freedom, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Includes the two essays ‘The adult literacy process as cultural action for freedom’ and ‘cultural action and conscientization’.

hooks, b. (1994) Teaching to Transgress. Education as the practice of freedom, London: Routledge. Draws on Freire but looks to developing a feminist, engaged pedagogy relevant to mutlicultural contexts. See also bell hooks (1996) Killing Rage, Ending Racism, London: Penguin.

Kirkwood, G. and Kirkwood, C. (1989) Living Adult Education. Freire in Scotland, Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Account of a project that attempted to apply Freirian thinking/practice.

Mezirow, J. (1991) Transformative Dimensions of Learning,San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Exploration of some of the processes by which people can free themselves from ‘oppressive ideologies, habits of perception, and psychological distractions’. A particular reading of conscientization.

Taylor, P. (1993) The Texts of Paulo Freire, Buckingham: Open University Press. A thorough examination of the work of Freire which highlights a number of problems with his approach. Good value can also be found in the collection edited by Robert Mackie (1980) Literacy and Revolution: the pedagogy of Paulo Freire, London: Pluto


© Mark K. Smith 1996

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