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Paulo Freire

Oppressor/Oppressed: The Struggle for Humanization

The struggle for humanization, breaking the cycles of injustice, exploitation and oppression lies in the perpetuation of oppressor versus oppressed. In these roles, those who commit the injustice, the oppressors, do not only deny freedom to those they oppress, they also risk their own humanity, because oppressor consciousness "tends to transform everything surrounding it into an object of its domination"(Freire, 1998b, p. 40).

These roles are so ingrained in society that in the "initial struggle for liberation," the oppressed frequently strive to imitate the oppressor. They see that role as the "ideal model of humanity"(p. 27).

To break the cycle, a revolution of ideas must take place, freedom can only occur when the oppressed "eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility"(p. 29).

But how do the oppressed reach this realization, how do they "resolve the oppressor-oppressed contradiction"?(p. 34) Freire's answer was through "the pedagogy of the oppressed, a pedagogy forged with not for the oppressed..."(p. 30) By confronting "reality critically, simultaneously objectifying and acting upon that reality", the oppressed can begin transformation from objects to Subjects. But this is only the first stage (p. 34).

Freire's pedagogy of the oppressed has two major stages:

  • The oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation.
  • The pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation. (p. 30)

Those who adopt Freire's pedagogy need to be aware that it is not made up of techniques to save the world. Instead, he felt that "...the progressive educator must always be moving out on his or her own, continually reinventing me and reinventing what it means to be democratic in his or her own specific cultural and historical context"(Freire, 1997, p.308) .


Paulo Freire
Oppressor/Oppressed Educational Banking Dialogic Action Pedagogy of Hope Others on Freire Links  
Updated: 11/23/99
Laurie Williams