Hope and activism in the Ivory Tower: Freirean Lessons for Globalisation Research

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Journal Article
Globalisations, 2006, 3 (1), pp. 9 - 30
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This paper uses Freirean theory and field studies of counter-globalist campaigns to add greater lucidity and normative deliberateness to our understanding of resistance to neo-liberal globalism. A difficult tension exists between complete submersion in movement struggles, versus a mythical position of objective analytic detachment. We sketch out the basis for a productive dialogue between these two competing pulls of political engagement and analytic objectivity. To do this, we draw from the writings of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian thinker famous for his theories of popular education. Freire's writings have not seriously entered academic studies of globalization, even though activists in the 'globalization-from-below' camp frequently draw on his words for inspiration. We seek to remedy this omission, and construct a dialogue between Freire and social movement struggles on four dualisms centred on epistemology, normativity, methodology and strategy. In each dualism, we outline how Freirean concepts can help redefine these binaries as productive tensions to be developed, rather than conflicts to be suppressed. These insights are not intended as a theoretical injunctive delivered from upon high, but are used in dialogue with examples from global justice campaigns in order to clarify what is already taking place on the ground. Identifying Freirean priorities can also encourage openings for more emancipatory approaches to critical globalization scholarship. While academics cannot engineer resistance to neo-liberal globalism from the top down, they can contribute their research energy and resources, becoming more actively engaged in the process of envisaging alternatives.
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