Chapter 1

Freire, P. (2018). Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition. Bloomsbury Academic.

Dehumanization, which marks not only those whose humanity has been stolen, but also (though in a different way) those who have stolen it, is a distortion of becoming more fully human. (p. 44)

This idea that dehumanization distorts both the oppressed and the oppressor is a critical idea to understanding situations where oppression has occurred. In Canada, this can be seen in both the violence committed against Indigenous people, as well as (at various times), against Chinese, Japanese, Africans, women, and countless other marginalized groups, and also in the dehumanization of the white settlers, the various levels of government and religious institutions.

Because it is a distortion of being more fully human, sooner or later being less human leads the oppressed to struggle against those who made them so. In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both. (p. 44)

Freire returns to this idea over and over again in the chapter. It seems almost inevitable that in seeking to overthrow oppressive regimes or people, the only replacement is oppression in a different form or person.

This then is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. (p. 44)

only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both. Any attempt to "soften" the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this. (p. 44)

It is not to become free that they want agrarian reform, but in order to acquire land and thus become landowners--or, more precisely, bosses over other workers. (p. 46)

Fear of freedom

One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual's choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber's consciousness. Thus, the behaviour of the oppressed is a prescribed behaviour, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor. (p. 46-47)

Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion. (p. 47)

This book will present some aspects of what the writer has termed the pedagogy of the oppressed, a pedagogy which must be forged with, not for, the oppressed (whether individuals or peoples) in the incessant struggle to regain their humanity (p. 48)

The central problem is this: How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? ... The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization. ...the solution of this contradiction is born in the labour which brings into the world this new being; no longer oppressor no longer oppressed, but human in the process of achieving freedom. (emphasis added) (p. 48-49)

True solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them these 'beings for another'. The oppressor is solidary with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labour -- when he stops making pious, sentimental and individualistic gestures and risks and act of love, in its existentiality, in its praxis. To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce. (p. 54)

It would be a contradiction in terms if the oppressors not only defended but actually implemented a liberating education. But if the implementation of a liberating education requires political power and the oppressed have none, how then is it possible to carry out the pedagogy of the oppressed prior to the revolution? ... One aspect of the reply is to be found in the distinction between systematic education, which can only be changed by political power, amd educational projects, which should be carried out with the oppressed in the process of organizing them. The pedagogy of the oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation. Truth and Reconciliation Commission! In the second stage, in which the reality of oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy for all people in the process of permanent liberation. (p. 54)

The restraints imposed by the former oppressed on their oppressors, so that the latter cannot reassume their former position, do not constitute oppression. An act is oppressive only when it prevents people from being more fully human. (p. 56-57)

A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favour without that trust. (p. 60)

A revolutionary leadership must accordingly practice co-intentional education. Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of recreating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators. In this was, the presence of the oppressed in the struggle for their liberation will be what it should be: not pseudo-participation, but committed involvement. (p. 69)


Well, I initially started out underlining things in the book, but there were some pages where it would have been easier to only underline the less-important parts. There is a tremendous amount to be gathered from Freire's work that is directly related to the current state of affairs in Canada's relationship to Indigenous people.


Hegel's Master-Slave Dialectic (MSD) seems evident throughout this chapter in the relationship between oppressor and oppressed. The oppressor and oppressed can't exist without the other, and it is only through liberation that the oppressor can begin to see a subject ego in the oppressed. The problem that Freire identifies is that the subject ego of the oppressed is the subject ego of the oppressor. The oppressed want to be liberated so that they can then become the oppressors.

In the MSD, it is seemingly only the object-ego (slave) who is dehumanized. Freire, however argues, rightly, I think, that oppression dehumanizes the oppressor as well as the oppressed. Further, Freire argues that liberation of the oppressed must happen with and not for the oppressed, and I'm not sure this distinction is made in the MSD.