Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 37–51 | Cite as

The Future of the Image in Critical Pedagogy



Although there is ample interrogation of advertising/commercial/media culture in critical pedagogy, there is little attention paid to the fine arts and to aesthetic experience. This lacuna is all the more perplexing given Paulo Freire’s use of artist Francisco Brenand’s illustrations (Education for Critical Consciousness. Continuum, New York, 1973) for his culture circles. In this essay I will return to Freire’s original description of the relationship between fine art images and conscientizacao in order to map out the future of the image in critical pedagogy. This return to the origin of the use of images in literacy programs will highlight the interdependent nature of word and image but also will demonstrate some of the long standing misconceptions of the way fine art images function in relation to education and politics. In conclusion I will suggest that if images have a future in critical pedagogy, then this future must ultimately move beyond Freire. As an alternative genealogical anchoring point for the development of the aesthetics of critical literacy, I suggest a turn to the work of Jacques Rancière. Through his conceptualization of the “pensive image” as well as the “emancipated spectator” we can begin to understand how the fine art image can work to realize Freire’s democratic ideals without relying on Freire’s problematic formulation of the image-pedagogy relationship. In conclusion, I suggest that the philosophical model necessary to support critical literacy is not Freire’s culture circle so much as Kant’s aesthetic community now revitalized via Rancière’s own aesthetics of dissensus.


Paulo Freire Jacques Ranciere Aesthetic philosophy Critical pedagogy Critical literacy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Montclair State UniversityMontclairUSA

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