Impossible Subjects: The Figure of the Animal in Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed


  • Lauren Corman


Freire's influential text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, relies on both anthropocentric and speciesist arguments to articulate a pedagogy for human liberation. While Freire's anthropocentric understandings of "nature" have been more thoroughly critiqued, less attention has been given to his construction of nonhuman animals, in particular. I argue that Freire figures nonhuman animals in three main ways: as non-communicative and non-dialogical, as non-agential and non-transforming, and as without history or culture. Within his pedagogical paradigm, humans alone are understood as Subjects who can achieve liberation. Freire strategically uses the figure of the animal to highlight human potentiality, which is realized by transcending an oppressed/Object/animal state. My critique of Freire is meant to complement humane and critical environmental education approaches that draw on his work.