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The Practice of Equality

Jacques Rancière and Critical Pedagogy


Edited By Stephen Cowden and David Ridley

This book is the first to focus specifically on the highly original contribution to the field of Critical Pedagogy made by the sometimes «irritable» French philosopher Jacques Rancière. The book represents a significant addition to the growing body of work on Rancière as well as to the field of Critical Pedagogy. While introducing and contextualising Rancière for those unfamiliar with him, the book also develops an understanding of the singularity of his conception of pedagogy for those already acquainted with his work. Central to the book is Rancière’s vision of education as a «practice of equality» – a method grounded in an assumption of intellectual equality between students and teachers. Throughout the chapters of the book, the contemporary relevance of this vision is drawn out for educators in schools and universities, adult and popular educators, as well as for political activists. For anyone and everyone with an interest in teaching and learning, this book contains vital insights for the survival and development of education as a democratic, critical and emancipatory project.

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1 Rancière, Freire and Critical Pedagogy (Sarah Galloway)


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1 Rancière, Freire and Critical Pedagogy

Whilst studying for a PhD in adult education, I engaged in the task of comparing Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972) with Jacques Rancière’s book, The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991). I had no qualifying undergraduate degree in social sciences or philosophy, but as a time-served computer programmer I utilised basic tools of logic to create an analysis. My interaction with the theorists’ ideas was informed by personal experiences of education and politics rather than, for example, awareness of academic audiences, or ongoing discussions within the field of critical pedagogy. At the time, I did not anticipate that the results of my analysis would be published (Galloway 2012). After completing my studies, I worked as a shop assistant and as an adult educator in prison, experiences that provoked me to question the purpose of educational theories and their possible relevance to academic fields of study. In this chapter I return to this staged conversation between Freire and Rancière and attempt to justify my opinion that the ideas do matter, because they encourage us to doubt commonly held assumptions about our (limited) potential to change society, instead challenging us to take personal responsibility for formulating and enacting alternatives whilst responding to each other and our shared concerns.

Freire wrote directly to an audience of practitioners and students and perhaps this in part explains why his account of education continues to hold the...

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