‘Paulo Freire and Subaltern Consciousness’ - a discussion by Dr. Laurence Simon
06 February 2013, Dhaka. Larry Simon, Professor of International Development, and Director of Graduate Programmes in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and long-term friend of BRAC, delivered a fascinating and challenging talk on 5thFebruary in BRAC Centre on ‘Paulo Freire and Subaltern Consciousness’. Over 150 BRAC staff and BRAC University academics attended the talk, engaging in a very lively discussion.
Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator and philosopher, best known for his influential work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) which Larry Simon demystified for the audience; explaining how the oppressed cannot be served by treating them as unfortunates, and by presenting them with models of development from among the oppressors. As Freire said, “The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption”. Freire’s ideas on ‘conscientisation’ have played an important part in influencing the development of BRAC. As BRAC’s founder and chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed has said, “People are poor because they are powerless. We must organise people for power. They must organise themselves so that they may change their lives”.
The talk was chaired by BRAC’s vice-chairperson, Mushtaque Chowdhury, who explained the pronounced influence of Paulo Freire on BRAC’s work in its early years. There were many stimulating contributions, including one from Syed M. Hashemi, Director of BRAC Development Institute, BRAC University, who drew a parallel between the influence of Liberation Theology on Paulo Freire and the way in which Maulana Bashani addressed the liberation of the oppressed in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
BRAC’s executive director Dr Mahabub Hossain concluded the enlightening discussion and thanked Larry Simon for his elucidation. He fully recognised the importance and influence of Paulo Freire’s ideas on BRAC and others, in support of the poor and oppressed in Bangladesh and elsewhere. He appreciated the effort and enthusiasm of all those who attended the talk and encouraged all to create further opportunities to study and discuss Paulo Freire’s texts and their application to their own work. It is not only the poor who need opportunities for ‘conscientisation’ but every individual.