published on December 19, 2017
Paulo Freire and Ernst Cassirer
Mythic and Superstitious Consciousness in Contemporary Academic Culture
The extent to which superstitious consciousness is prevalent in students, professors and administrators in university culture is no less alarming than the extent to which Cassirer (1946) proposed mythic consciousness is prevalent (and even necessary) within a totalitarian state. These are the connections I wish to explore: superstitious and mythic consciousness, and, pedagogic and political overlaps in the context of higher education and, in particular, in the processes of teaching, learning, scholarship, and curriculum development. Through examples drawn from my earlier and more recent years in higher education contexts, I examine, interrogate, and puzzle over the tensions, paradoxes, risks, and choices which characterize working from a Freirian orientation. In this analysis, I also engage the resonances between Paulo Freire and Ernst Cassirer. I refer to the works in Ira Shor’s 1987 collection devoted to applications of Paulo Freire’s theorizing and praxis and comment on their ongoing relevance. Last, I employ post-colonial and semiotic phenomenological modes of analyses and explication in my attempt to work through issues of power, pedagogy, and praxis in the increasingly urgent and intolerant politics of contemporary academic culture at the universities.