In general, the concept of “dehumanization” is frustrating for me. The histories of slavery and colonization constantly utilize the narrative that colonizers/slavers didn’t view the populations that they oppressed as “human,” that the horrific acts of committed against them were dehumanizing, etc. This concept bothers me a little bit because I’ve grown to understand that often the oppressors were very aware of the humanity of their victims, yet they constructed them as less than human and as “other” in their records to help justify the morality of their actions for themselves and anyone observing. So, the notion that humanity is a choice that is presented in Friere’s essay is a stance that I don’t exactly agree with, though I do understand that some statements and generalizations made have more to do with the time period he is in/the language used and could be reformulated today. Humanity is a given, and it is more of a choice to fully recognize it or to act as if it really exists. One line from “The Pedagogy of Oppressed” that seems very significant because of its finality, however, is this quote: “An act is oppressive only when it prevents people from being more fully human” (56-57). I would correct this statement to say that an act is oppressive when it allows the oppressor to act as if no humanity exists within the oppressed. The notion that humanity, or lack there of, is a constructed state is important. Friere talks distortion in a slightly different context at another point in the piece, but I think the concept applies here too: To distort or manipulate an image is a conscious action, and this also a[plies to the manipulation of what makes one “human.” The part that talked about how the the responsibility or the “task” of the oppressed is to restore their own humanity as well as that of the oppressor, consequently, I did not agree with as well. To repair the historical and hypocritical construct of the Other/non-human can almost not be done, and the responsibility needs to fall with those with institutional power; this will be the same groups who created the binary and the construct in the first place.

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3 responses »

  1. alexanderlandau says:

    I like your critique on Friere’s “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” I agree that oppressors see their victims’ humanity, but view them as “others” in order to justify their abusive actions towards them. I also didn’t like Friere’s notion that humanity is a choice and that it is the “task” of the oppressed to restore humanity in the oppressor.

  2. I agree with your critique as well, but I also understand it. I believe that he is trying to say that it is the oppressed job to restore their humanity as far as making the people with power understand that they are human and they don’t deserve to be oppressed, but I do believe you are right in the only way to truly change, and change institutionally would be if the people in power do so.

  3. sonyajendoubi says:

    Another aspect of Friere’s analysis which I found problematic was his perception of the oppressed as unable to free themselves, because they feared the consequences of freedom. Between that thought process and his thoughts on humanity, I feel like he puts more power in the hands in the oppressor than they deserve. Friere seems to be playing into the narrative of the oppressor and almost views the oppressed as powerless. I understand that within this paradigm the oppressed have little power, but it’s not as if they don’t have any leverage or ability to bring themselves out of this situation. That being said, I also agree with Ashley, institutional change must be sustained by those in power. So perhaps rather than the change only being possible from one side or the other it must be a combined effort.

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