Education in the Realm of the Senses: Understanding Paulo Freire’s Aesthetic Unconscious through Jacques Rancière

Journal of Philosophy of Education 43 (2):285-299 (2009)
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Abstract

In this article I re-examine the role that aesthetics play in Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed. As opposed to the vast majority of scholarship in this area, I suggest that aesthetics play a more centralised role in pedagogy above and beyond arts-based curricula. To help clarify Freire’s position, I will argue that underlying the linguistic resolution of the student/teacher dialectic in the problem-posing classroom is an accompanying shift in the very aesthetics of recognition. In order to demonstrate the always already aesthetic nature of all education, I will turn to the aesthetic philosophy of Jacques Rancière. Through Rancière we can begin to understand how the pedagogy of the oppressed is predicated on an aesthetic redistribution of the sensible, of what can be seen and what can be heard. As Rancière will confirm, if we truly want to understand the aesthetics of pedagogy, we cannot simply see aesthetics as external to teaching and learning. Rather, education as an aesthetic event has to be taken seriously, and aesthetics should regain primacy in discussions of critical pedagogy.

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