EMANCIPATION and CONSCIENTIZATION


In Brazil, we have a tradition from the 60’s, first found in the works of leftist intellectuals influenced by popular education such as Paulo Freire, a Brazilian who affected a whole generation of social scientists. These scientists, always concerned with the underprivileged classes, devoted themselves to studies in poor communities, trying to develop conscientization methods – both social and political – to apply in these communities.

Social Psychology - a local branch of psychology distinct from the more classic social psychology of Anglo-Saxon/North American origin - would rather be called communitarian social psychology. A few authors will also see a clear distinction between the North American communitarian social psychology and the Latin American communitarian social psychology. It is important to notice that the first trend is similar to a certain community development ideology imported from the United States in the 60's by development agencies, such as OEA and BID among others, who took an interest in the underprivileged communities in Latin America. It was as a criticism to the first trend that in Latin America the second trend became strong, influenced by Paulo Freire's "popular education".

As Maritza Montero ,a leading social psychologist from Venezuela points out:

(These are) urgent problems in the Latin-American society, where a practice centered in the non-critical adoption of imported models presented answers that were neither proper nor sufficient.

In the great majority of Latin American social psychologists’ accounts, Freire and Falls Borda (Colombian) appear as «two intellectuals who inspired a search for new paths for those psychologists interested in the actual knowledge of social reality and in reality-transforming actions using the conscious intent of community members». It is important to consider the whole social, economical, and political trajectory of Latin American countries during the 60’s and the 70’s, when strong popular movements, sometimes inspired by the less conservative members of the Church and by a strong repression promoted by military dictatorships.

During the 80’s, both Brazil and Latin America underwent an increase, almost propaganda-like, of new researches encouraging action, or the so-called participative researches.

Maritza Montero acknowledges a few stages in the adoption of this method in Latin America by social psychologists. She speaks of


It is essential to understand that participative research identify in the field not only an ‘action’, through a research device, but also a new conception of research, directed to discourse/language, change/transformation, and – we cannot deny – containing an underlying political concern with the underprivileged groups or communities, or the ‘oppressed’, to use an expression consecrated by Paulo Freire, whose work, Pedagogia do Oprimido/ Pedagogy of Opressed ,

achieved great recognition.It was exactly the political bias contained in action research in Latin America, including Brazil that created problems. To continue as researchers, many had to seek funding outside the academic research organizations, at the international organizations with agendas concerned with social problems. This type of support could provide immediate solutions, free of the classic academicism that, as we can easily imagine, pervaded our Brazilian universities as well as everywhere else. This enabled an increase in the number of action research and participative researches organized in partnership with international organizations worldwide.

Today, enjoying a greater acceptance in the Latin American academic world than during the 80’s, participative research may even be considered one of the avatars of communitarian social psychology. Some consider it as the only possibility of practicing a truly transforming and emancipating social psychology.

Does the action research clearly show the power contradictions existing in our midst, or does it just "empower" the powerless by raising their awareness of their civil/human rights, among others? In spite of the great importance that social awareness undoubtedly has, in which measure does the research perceive the contradictory representations inherent in the identity of a hybrid culture?


NOTES
1) "Guareschi stresses that the term conscientization was used just after the first works of Paulo Freire to facilitate - among other things - the translation into other languages. The word that Freire had introduced was "conscienciação", i.e., an attempt to link 'action' (researchers/social scientists) to awareness (oppressed/disfavored). Guareschi distinguishes 'conscientization' as an act a posteriori and 'conscienciação' as a first or founding act of the researcher's action. GUARESCHI, P. Sinais de um novo paradigma. In: CAMPOS, Regina Helena, GUARESCHI, Pedro (Orgs.). Paradigmas em psicologia social: a perspectiva latino-americana. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2000. See also Freire,P., The Pedagogy of the opressed (1972), Penguin, London: Conscientization: the development of critical counsciousness."
2) "Concerned with the underprivileged communities' adaptation to the capitalist system."
3)"Concerned with the underprivileged communities' adaptation to the capitalist system."
4)
"MONTERO, M. Construcción, desconstrucción y crítica: teoría y sentido de la psicologia social comunitaria en America Latina, in R.H. CAMPOS, P. GUARESCHI, (dir.). Paradigmas em psicologia social. Rio de janeiro, Vozes, 2000."
5)"LANE, S., in R.H. FREITAS, P. GUARESCHI, (dir.). Paradigmas em psicologia social: a perspectiva latinoamericana. Petrópolis, Vozes, 2000, p. 60."
6) "MONTERO, M. (dir.), Psicologia social Comunitaria. Guadalajara, Univ. Guadalajara, 1994."
7) "Freire,P., The Pedagogy of the opressed (1972), Penguin, London"