The Reclamation of Human Personality: Paulo Freire and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in comparative perspective

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IX Encontro Internacional do Fórum Paulo Freire
On the walls of the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty in the Indian city of Chennai, an organization working against untouchability, Paulo Freire’s photograph hangs next to the Dalit (untouchable) human rights leader, B.R. Ambedkar. Freire and Ambedkar were towering figures among radical social theorists of the last century. While Ambedkar is largely unknown outside of India, Freire is widely respected by Dalit leaders but without a close knowledge of his ideas and relevance to their situation. Now years after their deaths, their renown in the developing world remains iconic, particularly among oppressed groups fighting for recognition and social justice. While of different generations and emerging from communities of suffering half way around the world from each other, their thought and praxis deserve comparative analysis asking the relevance of their ideas to the rapidly changing and globalizing world of the poor and to the present notions of justice and human rights that permeate poor nations much more today than in their formative years. For both thinkers, freedom is a personal and social transformation of Wagnerian proportions, affecting not only the oppressed but the oppressor in a quest for a common humanity. Yet difference of context and culture imbue their work and these differences may yield lessons for the struggles ahead – particularly the role that religious movements play for liberation or oppression.