The Urban Review

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 847–867 | Cite as

Thinking Ourselves to Liberation?: Advancing Sociopolitical Action in Critical Consciousness

Article

Abstract

Freire advanced critical consciousness as a tool for the liberation of oppressed communities. Based on his ideas, scholars of theory and practice from myriad disciplines have written about how to advance critical consciousness (CC) among oppressed peoples. We reviewed CC theory and practice articles in scholarly journals with the goal of identifying key elements of CC, advancing practice, and aligning theory with insights from practice. The most prominent elements of CC theory we found were fostering awareness of sociopolitical circumstances, encouraging critical questioning, and fostering collective identity. Surprisingly, few theorists or practitioners gave extensive attention to the community action component of critical consciousness. This led us to give this component of CC close attention and to develop a framework that describes four aspects of “sociopolitical action.” We conclude with a recommendation that CC programming include targets or objectives for sociopolitical action from the outset of a project, rather than limiting CC groups to critical social analysis and problematization. Youth community organizing is a promising strategy for bridging the gap between critical social analysis and sociopolitical action. This approach calls for ongoing partnerships between career researchers and community-based, veteran activists with the expertise to help young people make the transition from insight to action.

Keywords

Critical consciousness Critical social analysis Sociopolitical action 

References

  1. Akom, A. A., Cammarota, J., & Ginwright, A. (2008). Youthtopias: Toward a new paradigm of critical youth studies. Youth Media Reporter, 4, 109–129.Google Scholar
  2. Burke, W. (2011). Organization Change, Theory and Practice (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  3. Cammarota, J. (2011). From hopelessness to hope: Social justice pedagogy in urban education and youth development. Urban Education, 46, 828–844. doi:10.1177/0042085911399931.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell, C., & MacPhail, C. (2002). Peer education, gender and the development of critical consciousness: Participatory HIV prevention by South African youth. Social Science and Medicine, 55, 331–345. doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(01)00289-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carr, E. S. (2003). Rethinking empowerment theory using a feminist lens: The importance of process. Affilia, 18(1), 8–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Christens, B., Collura, J., & Tahir, F. (2013). Critical hopefulness: A person-centered analysis of the intersection of cognitive and emotional empowerment. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52, 170–184. doi:10.1007/s10464-013-9586-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diemer, M. A., & Bluestein, D. L. (2006). Critical consciousness and career development among urban youth. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68, 220–232. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2005.07.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eijnatten, F., & Dijkstra, L. (2005). Improvement and Transfer of Practice-directed Knowledge. Quality & Quantity, 39, 137–154. doi:10.1007/s11135-004-1672-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fetterman, D., & Wandersman, A. (Eds.) (2005). Empowerment Evaluation Principles in Practice. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  10. Foster-Fishman, P., Law, K., Lichty, L., & Aoun, C. (2010). Youth ReACT for social change: A method for youth participatory action research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46, 67–83. doi:10.1007/s10464-010-9316-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  12. Freire, P. (1990). Education for a critical consciousness. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  13. Ginwright, S., & Cammarota, J. (2007). Youth activism in the urban community: learning critical civic praxis within community organizations. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20, 693–710. doi:10.1080/09518390701630833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodman, L. A., Bohligh, A., Litwin, A., Weintraub, S. R., Green, A., Walker, J., et al. (2007). Applying feminist theory to community practice: a multilevel empowerment intervention for low-income women with depression. In E. Aldarando (Ed.), Advancing social justice through clinical practice (pp. 267–290). Florence, KY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  15. Gutierrez, L. M. (1995). Understanding the empowerment process: Does consciousness make a difference? Social Work Research, 19, 229–237.Google Scholar
  16. Hanna, F. J., Talley, W. B., & Guindon, M. H. (2000). The power of perception: Toward a model of cultural oppression and liberation. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78(4), 430–441.Google Scholar
  17. Hatcher. (2015). Personal communication.Google Scholar
  18. Hatcher, A., de Wet, J., Bonell, C., Strange, V., Phetla, G., Proynk, P., et al. (2011). Promoting critical consciousness and social mobilization in HIV/AIDS programmes: Lessons and curricular tools from a South African intervention. Health Education Research, 26(3), 542–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hipolito-Delgado, C. P., & Lee, C. C. (2007). Empowerment theory for the professional school counselor: A manifesto for what really matters. Professional School Counseling, 10, 327–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hogran, H. (2013). How investing in grass-roots advocacy helped put an end to a racist practice. Chronicle of Philanthropy, 25(18), 29–30.Google Scholar
  21. Hopper, K. (1999). John Berger and Eric Holtzman. Social Policy, 30(2), 13–21.Google Scholar
  22. Kettner, P., Moroney, R., & Martin, R. (2002). Designing and managing programs: An effectiveness-based approach (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  23. Kim, J., Ferrari, G., Abramsky, T., Watts, C., Hargreaves, J., Morison, L., et al. (2009). Assessing the incremental effects of combining economic and health interventions: the IMAGE study in South Africa. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 87, 824–832. doi:10.2471/BLT.08.056580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kirshner, B. (2009). “Power in Numbers”: Youth Organizing as a Context for Exploring Civic Identity. Journal of Research On Adolescence, 19(3), 414–440. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2009.00601.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kohfeldt, D., & Langhout, R. D. (2012). The five whys method: A tool for developing problem definitions in collaboration with children. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 23, 316–329. doi:10.1002/casp.1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kripalani, K. (ed.). (1960). Presidential address at Belgaum Congress, 1924. In K. Kripalani (ed.), All men are brothers: Life and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as told in his own words. Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal and Gandhi Research Foundation. http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/AllMenAreBrothers.pdf.
  27. Lavie-Ajayi, M., & Krumer-Nevo, M. (2013). In a different mindset: Critical youth work with marginalized youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 1698–1704. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2013.07.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maiter, S., Joseph, A., Shan, N., & Saeid, A. (2013). Doing participatory qualitative research: Development of a shared critical consciousness with racial minority research advisory group members. Qualitative Research, 13(2), 198–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mizner, D. (2013). Starving for justice. (Cover story). Nation, 297(25), 20–22.Google Scholar
  30. Montero, M. (2009). Methods for liberation: Critical consciousness in action. In C. Sonn & M. Montero (Eds.), Psychology of liberation (pp. 73–91). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moreau, M. J. (1990). Empowerment through advocacy and consciousness-raising: implications of a structural approach to social work. Journal of Sociology & Social Work., 17(2), 53–67.Google Scholar
  32. Stake, R. (2004). Standards-based and responsive evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  33. Stringer, E. (2007). Action research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Vandiver, B., Fhagen-Smith, P., Cokley, K., & Cross, W, Jr. (2001). Cross’s Nigrescence model: From theory to scale to theory. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 29(3), 174–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Watts, R. J., Abdul-Adil, J. K., & Pratt, T. (2002). Enhancing critical consciousness in young African American men: A psychoeducational approach. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 3, 41–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Watts, R. J., Diemer, M. A., & Voight, A. M. (2011). Critical consciousness: Current status and future directions. In C. A. Flanagan & B. D. Christens (Eds.), Youth civic development: Work at the cutting edge. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 134, 43–57.Google Scholar
  37. Watts, R. J., Diemer, M. A., & Voight, A. M. (2011b). Critical consciousness: Current status and future directions. In C. A. Flanagan & B. D. Christens (Eds.), Youth civic development: Work at the cutting edge. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (Vol. 134, pp. 43–57). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  38. Watts, R., Griffith, D., & Abdul-Adil, J. (1999). Sociopolitical development as an antidote for oppression: Theory and action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 27, 255–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roderick J. Watts
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carlos P. Hipolito-Delgado
    • 3
  1. 1.The Graduate CenterCity University of New York (CUNY)New YorkUSA
  2. 2.Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter CollegeNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.University of Colorado at DenverDenverUSA

Personalised recommendations