Paulo Freire is one of the most influential Brazilian and Latin American intellectuals of the 20th century. His work has achieved significant global impact, with leading positions in rankings and international tributes. There are research centres named after him in Finland, South Africa, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States, Canada. Among Brazilians, he has the greatest number of Doctor Honoris Causa titles: at least 35 titles including universities in Brazil and abroad (among them: Geneva, Bologna, Stockholm, Massachusetts, Illinois and Lisbon). (Veiga, 2019)
In 2016, the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed was the only Brazilian authored book to appear among the 100 most referred works recommended in syllabus in English speaking universities, according to Open Syllabus. It scored the 99th place in the general list and 2nd place when concerning only programs in the field of education (G1, 2016). This same book was identified as the third most quoted book in academic works in the field of Social Sciences, according to Google Scholar stats (Green, 2016).
Whilst Freire’s work was primarily concerned with education, it inspired –and continues to do so– generations of communication scholars and practitioners, social movements and other political actors. Peruzzo (2020) in fact holds that, more than pedagogical, Freire’s vision is one of communication. As she states, communication is profoundly inscribed into his model of teaching and learning. It is part and parcel of a permanent exchange between teachers and students, so intense that it puts them in interchangeable positions as equal bearers of a diversity of knowledges. As Freire affirms, “[e]ducator-student and student-educator, in the liberating educational process, they are both knowing subjects in the face of knowable objects, which mediate them” (Freire, 2013, p. 69, our translation). Relatedly, Waisbord (2020) summarizes that, for Freire, “communication is how we learn to be human” and highlights how his work displays several features that configure a “blueprint for democratic communication”.
In the field of communication and social change, Freire’s influence was documented in Gumucio-Dagron and Tufte’s large edited collection: Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings (2006). From 2004-2006 they conducted a global call to identify seminal texts in the 50-year history of the field of communication for social change. Following a comprehensive global consultative process and a very participatory editorial process involving 10 world leading experts, 200 texts (from quotes and excerpts to full-fledged articles) were selected as seminal for the field. 40% were texts from Latin America, and most had explicit references to Freire. Some texts from Asia, Africa and the US also made explicit reference to him. It was evident that his thinking had global influence.
For Freire, the main goal of any educational process is to liberate human beings, with special attention to the oppressed. This liberating goal is accomplished when educator(s) and student(s) reach communion and name the world together (Freire, 2013, p. 83), which could not be more of a communication epistemology. At the core of the Freirean approach to education is dialogue, which is crucial to visualise its relationship with theories and practices of communication. Dialogue, for him, is more than a relational approach; it is the main requirement for individuals to become historical subjects. The human being ceases to be an object and becomes a subject when he/she not only reads the world, but (re)writes it (Freire, 2017). Inclusion involves the ability to explain oneself and explain the world.
Tufte, T., Jiménez-Martinez & Suzina, A.C. (2020). De-constructing participatory communication and civil society development in 2020: a perspective inspired by Paulo Freire. Commons. Revista de Comunicación y Ciudadanía Digital, 9(2), 48-78.
Suzina, A.C. &Tufte, T. (2020). Freire’s vision of development and social change – past experiences, present challenges and perspectives for the future. International Communication Gazette, 82: 5, August, 411-424.