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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Learning liberation : a comparative analysis of feminist consciousness raising and Freire's conscientization method Butterwick, Shauna J.


This study emerged from an awareness of the critical role that learning plays within social movements and from a belief that adult education can learn much from examining the learning activities of the Women's Movement. Using a comparative approach, the similarities and differences between feminist consciousness raising and Freire's conscientization method were explored. The process of analysis involved studying Freire's written works available in English and the literature resources available through the University of British Columbia library on feminist consciousness raising. The comparison began with presentation of the historical, political, social, and economic factors which led to the development of consciousness raising and conscientization. This included an examination of the historical background of Brazil, of biographical information on Freire, and of the events which led to the development of Freire's conscientization method. In a similar way, this study explored the historical background of the Women's Movement, with particular emphasis on its re-emergence during the sixties and those factors which led to the creation of consciousness raising groups. The next step in the analysis was the comparison of consciousness raising and conscientization using the following categories: the themes or content within each process, the nature of the interaction, the presence and role of teachers or coordinators, the phases in each process, and the changes in consciousness expected as a result of each process. The study concluded with discussion of the differences between these two processes, which appear to be closely linked to the different contexts and factors, such as the different kinds of oppression being fought against, which led to the development of each learning activity. As the similarities were identified, it became evident that a number of important elements were common to both learning activities despite the very different contexts. These common elements were presented as principles of the consciousness raising method found within liberating social movements. Comparing these two learning activities indicated the liberating power of allowing people to tell their own story. Implications for practice focused on the need for a contextual sensitivity when working with or studying the learning activities of social movements. It was argued that awareness of the similarities (suggested principles) and differences between consciousness raising and conscientization could prevent application of either method as simply recipes for liberation. Many recommendations were made for further research which stressed the utility of comparative analysis for continuing examination of learning within social movements. Recommendations were made for examination of the relationship between the nature of learning activities and the kind of oppression, either gender-based or class-based. Further collaboration between the Women's Movement and adult education was suggested.

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