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Paulo Freire and the Cold War Politics of Literacy

Andrew J. Kirkendall

Publication Year: 2010

Andrew J. Kirkendall provides a transnational, archives-based study of Brazilian Paulo Freire (1921-1997), a major Third World (as it was called in that era--now known as the developing world or even the global South) intellectual and shaper of international literacy education during the Cold War. The study serves as both the first-ever political biography of the man and an examination of the politics of literacy in Latin America and beyond in the Cold War period. Throughout the twentieth-century, when governments of many political stripes embraced literacy education as a crucial element of efforts to fuel economic growth, political inclusion, and international development, Freire pioneered a highly influential, internationally adopted “consciousness raising” approach featuring mass literacy education campaigns that sought to engage, in a political fashion, the illiterate. Freire’s often controversial campaigns--which aroused the suspicion of the U.S. government and lead to his exile from Brazil for sixteen years--played transformative roles in many places, helping to build, overthrow, and reform governments from Brazil and Chile to Nicaragua and newly independent Portuguese African countries. His pedogogical ideas were influential in the United States, as well.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. xi-xiv

My visits to the Instituto Paulo Freire in São Paulo were critical to the development of my ideas. I am not sure that the institute had ever had a foreign historian in their midst, and they seemed to have been intrigued by my insistence on squeezing the last drop out of their resources over several visits...


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pp. xv-xviii

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Introduction: Paulo Freire and the Twentieth-Century Drive for Development

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pp. 1-10

In a makeshift school built out of coconut trees in 1963 in the poor northeastern Brazilian city of Natal, a group of adult students sat and worked on their ABCs. This was no ordinary night class. As these men and women, many of whom were new to urban life...

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1. Entering History

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pp. 11-27

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire was born on 19 September 1921 during the last years of the Old Republic (1889–1930) at a time in which greater attention was being paid to educational issues. Brazil is a country of 3.2 million square miles, and, at the time of Freire’s birth, its population was roughly thirty million...

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2. The Revolution that Wasn’t and the Revolution that Was in Brazil, 1961–1964

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pp. 28-60

With the accession to power of João Goulart following the unexpected resignation of President Jânio Quadros in August 1961, regional, national, and international dynamics turned illiteracy into a national issue of great political import and Paulo Freire himself into a major fi gure in political and educational circles...

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3. Reformist Chile, Peasant Consciousness, and the Meaning of Christian Democracy, 1964–1969

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pp. 61-89

Paulo Freire had developed new techniques for training adults to read and write, but his hopes of employing them to transform his native land were frustrated by the military coup of 1964. The experience of exile that resulted from the coup, however, opened up new opportunities for him. In Chile, the recently inaugurated administration of Eduardo...

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4. Paulo Freire and the World Council of Churches in the First and Third Worlds, 1969–1980

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pp. 90-117

In the 1970s, Paulo Freire became an international fi gure. He traveled endlessly, mostly on behalf of the World Council of Churches (wcc), though not tirelessly. His ideas traveled even more widely and spread more rapidly around the world. If his Chilean experience had given him a broader Latin American perspective, he now increasingly...

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5. The Sandinistas and the Last Utopian Experiment of the Cold War, 1979–1980

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pp. 118-152

The last major literacy campaign Paulo Freire advised while he was with the World Council of Churches took him back to Latin America, but not to South America, where he had developed his ideas and techniques in an era of reform, but to Central America...

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6. The Long, Slow Transition to Democracy in Brazil and the End(?) of Utopia, 1980–1997

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pp. 153-164

Paulo Freire returned to a Brazil that was still run by the military but experiencing “a concrete opening.” Freire felt that he had to “take advantage of the existence of this space.” The amnesty law of 1979 had made it possible for him and his family to make a life...

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Epilogue: Legacies of a Cold War Intellectual in a Post–Cold War World

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pp. 165-170

Since his death on 2 May 1997, Paulo Freire’s writings, ideas, and techniques have had a life of their own. They may, at times and in turn, create their own historical contexts. His infl uence remains strong, particularly among those involved in what is known as popular education and among those in the academic world who practice what they call critical...


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pp. 171-222


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pp. 223-242


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pp. 243-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781469606309
E-ISBN-10: 1469606305
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834190
Print-ISBN-10: 080783419X

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010