Educational Theory 60 (2):231-248 (2010)

Famously, Walter Benjamin once wrote that behind historical materialism lies a disavowed theological “hunchback.” More importantly, it is only through a rejuvenated relation with this theological hunchback that historical materialism can ultimately realize its own revolutionary possibilities. While the theological dimension of critical theory has been explored in a variety of disciplines and for a variety of political and philosophical purposes, the same cannot be said for the field of critical pedagogy. In this essay, Tyson Lewis addresses this gap by focusing on mystical traditions of messianism that haunt certain strains of critical pedagogy. He contends that critical pedagogy cannot overcome certain limitations within its own project without unlocking the radical kernel of the messianic. In brief, messianism offers a potential moment for rethinking education outside of a sovereign decision over and against student life by reuniting educational time with the creative time of the now, kairos. In developing a genealogical rethinking of the messianic within critical pedagogy, Lewis focuses on the work of Paulo Freire. By articulating Freire with current theorists of the messianic, including Giorgio Agamben, we can see how the time of the messianic moment is educational time and how educational time, in its most radical formulation, is a messianic opening. Lewis concludes that a resolution of the question of authority as well as a new notion of educational time help to situate the emphasis of critical pedagogy toward a new appreciation of and respect for the theme of potentiality
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DOI 10.1111/j.1741-5446.2010.00355.x
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