Classrooms, conscientization, communion: Paulo Freire and theological space

Authors: Justin Tse*, Northwestern University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Religion, Geographic Thought
Keywords: Paulo Freire, cultural geography, theology, grounded theologies, religion, education
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed has often been misread as a textbook for educational methodologies, prescribing pedagogical practices to decenter the teacher in favour of student participation. In this paper, I hope to re-read Freire’s account of teaching, which might begin in most teaching spaces conceived as classrooms but might also be broader in terms of the communities that Freire was invested in educating, as an attitude toward the study of cultural geographies. Seeking to ‘re-present’ the world of students in their own words often by recording them and writing them on display boards, Freire’s stated aim was to establish a ‘communion’ between teacher and student that remakes the world from the impositions of the ‘banking’ model of education to a ‘problem-posing’ one. Situating this exegesis of Freire at the nexus of creative geographies of religion and a re-reading of Freire as a theologian in the philosophy of education, I shall argue that the teaching of geography can have as its objective to open students to conceiving of the world in ways that do not overdetermine it as secular. With education oriented toward what Freire calls ‘conscientization’ – the subject becoming conscious of his or her own consciousness – geography allows for teachers and students to reflect on how the world may be ontologically constituted, even if those reflections wax theological. In so doing, geography becomes less about knowledge about the space of the world but the creative making of worlds that take into account its possible spiritual constitution.

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