Dissertation Abstracts

Between domestication and liberation: A Freirean community-based educational intervention in Malta

Author: Maria Brown, maria.brown@um.edu.mt
Department: Education Studies
University: University of Malta, Malta
Supervisor: Carmel Borg
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Sociology , Adult Education , Community , Action Research
Areas of Research: Community Research , Education , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management


This thesis involved a longitudinal participatory action research study targeting a sociological understanding of community and adult education to inform development of non-mainstream, alternative pedagogies. The study also delved into how such pedagogies may be customized and re-invented to specific adult communities for the purposes of community action and community development. Indeed, the discussion builds on an analysis of the experiences of a number of adults (including the researcher) involved as participants and co-investigators of a community educational participatory action research project between 2011 and 2014. Participants organised, developed and attended workshops underpinned by a re-invention of Paulo Freire’s (2005, 1993) pedagogical principles. In practice the workshops targeted artistic and literary productions, public dissemination activities and networking activities. This action research design generated data that provided opportunities to assess the impact of such activities with respect to Freire’s (1993) notions of domestication and liberation and the spaces between these two states. The findings of this study show that the deployed pedagogical tools yielded to increased awareness of and critical engagement with self and community in the context of broader social dynamics, such as globalisation, commodification and the post-Fordist socio-economic paradigm. In other words, participants of this adult educational initiative increasingly manifested a developing critical consciousness. Another significant impact was the changing nature and extent of active citizenship and networking. Nevertheless, sociological analysis shed light on fluctuations in the degree of these outcomes rooted in participants’ agencies and narratives, as well as their broader social contexts - such as tribalism founded on partisan alignment, age, level of education, market value of human capital, gender and patriarchy. Therefore, the study showed that the struggle for emancipatory liberation is, by default, an unfinished (Freire, 1993) project. Nonetheless, fluctuations between domestication and liberation proved to be relevant, as well as more realistic spaces for educational impact on participants’ experience of the adult educational initiative. In the process, the professional educator/researcher struggled between avoiding the danger of imposing values and perspectives and challenging limitations (such as parochialism) of perspectives and experiences. Finally, this study also highlighted the relevance of tapping on the value of small scale and/or community action that involves collaboration between people from different walks of life and from different educational and professional backgrounds. In other words, local action projects that resource individuals and communities politically and endow such individuals and communities with the potential to influence broader society by means of their grassroots agency.

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