In Freire more than Freire : towards a new psychoanalytic foundation for critical pedagogy




Armonda, Alex Joseph

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Turning to the key texts in Paulo Freire’s body of work, the purpose of this theoretical study is to examine and reframe the philosophical and practical principles of Freirean critical pedagogy from the standpoint of psychoanalytic theory. Situating Freire in relation to notable theorists in the psychoanalytic tradition, such as Jacques Lacan, Frantz Fanon, Herbert Marcuse, Alenka Zupančič, and Slavoj Žižek, among others, this study argues that the problem-posing pedagogical experience, developed throughout Freire’s work, can be rearticulated on the basis of a still unspecified relationship to analytic theory and method. The dissertation begins from Freire’s claim that his problem-posing works as a “kind of psychoanalysis,” and attends to the parallels (and divergences) that appear between Freire’s account of the critical pedagogical encounter, and psychoanalysis’ account of the clinical encounter. I argue that Freire’s critical pedagogy can be accurately described as a politically militated psychoanalysis, and more importantly, that it can be presented in a way that embraces the radical concepts of subjectivity and the unconscious elaborated in psychoanalysis, while affirming, and opening new possibilities for, critical pedagogy as an emancipatory praxis. Three major sections comprise the dissertation. First I explore the psychoanalytic antecedents of Freire’s thought, and I outline new ways to understand the dialectic of Oppressor/Oppressed in Freire, the concept of radical love that defines the stance of the critical pedagogue, and the central role of desire in problem-posing experience. Second, I remap the psychical and subjective dimensions of the problem-posing engagement, and I redefine familiar terms in Freire—such as ‘dialogue’ and ‘naming’—on the basis of their link to the process of signification psychoanalysis describes apropos the unconscious and traumatic (or real) knowledge. Freirean praxis, it is argued, situates the encounter with unconscious social knowledge as the key site for facilitating new kinds of political subjectivation for students and teachers alike. This study concludes with a qualitive analysis of a developing critical educator’s experience with problem-posing pedagogy in an elementary public school classroom. Leveraging a psychoanalytic reading of Freirean practice, this qualitative section provides new insights on the impasses and possibilities that define the problem-posing act.


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