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date: 12 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

Popular Education (PE) is an educational movement and pedagogical current that emerged in Latin America in the seventies. It was a result of Paulo Freire’s pedagogical proposals in a context of radicalization of popular struggle and cultural and intellectual movements. During the past five decades, hundreds of groups, practices and projects have identified themselves as part of the PE movement. As a pedagogical current, PE is understood as an educational perspective and practice, which is critical of institutionalized education and identifies with emancipatory political perspectives. Its purpose is to help populations that experience oppression or discrimination to strengthen their capacity to change their conditions, relationships, practices and ways of thinking and feeling by means of cultural, educational, dialogical, participatory, interactive and expressive practices. With respect to the history of PE in Latin America, its social contexts and educational practices, four stages can be identified:

1. The liberating pedagogy of Paulo Freire at the end of the sixties.

2. The foundational stage PE in the seventies.

3. The re-foundation and expansion of the PE in the eighties and nineties.

4. The reactivation of the EP in the current context.

During these periods, a constant interest in PE has been producing knowledge from and about its contexts, themes and practices. From its origins, it has created and incorporated qualitative research strategies in coherence with its political and epistemological options.

As evidenced in each historical phase of the PE, the use of a qualitative methodology predominated: thematic research in Freire’s pedagogical proposal; participatory action research (PAR) in its foundational stage; collective reconstruction of the history and critical ethnography in its expansion phase; systematization of practices since the 1990s; and the emergence of innovative and aesthetic strategies at the present century. A set of methodological principles derive from this historical path of qualitative research in PE:

1. Maintaining a critical distance from institutionalized research modes in the scientific world, acknowledging their subordination to hegemonic powers.

2. Assuming PE to be both critical and emancipatory. This option is identified with values, willpower, and projects that involve new meanings of the organization of collective life.

3. Recognizing the place of the cultural and the intersubjective, both in social phenomena and in social research processes.

4. Linking it to emancipatory organizational processes and collective actions.

5. Not subordinating it to the institutional logic of disciplinary research.

6. Promoting group and organization participation in research process decisions.

7. Ensuring that it promotes formation of knowledge collectives.

8. Maintaining a critical and creative use of the theory.

9. Recognizing the plurality of subjects and promoting a “dialogue of knowledge.”

10. Incorporating diverse cultural practices within communities in order to produce and communicate their knowledge.

11. Assuming methodology to be a flexible practice.

12. Assuming research within PE is a permanent practice of critical reflection.

Keywords: popular education (PE), qualitative research, thematic research, participatory action research (PAR), systematization of practices

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