Paulo Freire's last laugh: Rethinking critical pedagogy's funny bone through Jacques Rancière

Educational Philosophy and Theory 42 (5-6):635-648 (2010)
In several enigmatic passages, Paulo Freire describes the pedagogy of the oppressed as a 'pedagogy of laughter'. The inclusion of laughter alongside problem-posing dialogue might strike some as ambiguous, considering that the global exploitation of the poor is no laughing matter. And yet, laughter seems to be an important aspect of the pedagogy of the oppressed. In this paper, I examine the role of laughter in Freire's critical pedagogy through a series of questions: Are all forms of laughter equally emancipatory? Certainly a revolutionary pedagogue can laugh, but should he or she, and what are the political (if not revolutionary) implications of this laughter? In order to shed new light on Freire's fleeting yet provocative comments, I turn to Jacques Rancière for his emphasis on the aesthetics of politics, and Paulo Virno who connects joke telling with critical theory. Overall, I argue that we need to take Freire's gesture toward a pedagogy of laughter seriously in order to understand the aesthetics of critical pedagogy and the fundamental need for a redistribution of the sensible that underlies educational relations between masters and pupils.
Keywords Jacques Rancière  Paulo Virno  democracy  laughter  Paulo Freire  pedagogy of the oppressed
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DOI 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2010.00690.x
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Pedagogy of the Oppressed.Paulo Freire - 2008 - In David J. Flinders & Stephen J. Thornton (eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader. Routledge.
State of Exception.Giorgio Agamben - 2004 - University of Chicago Press.

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