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Exploring Paulo Freire's theory and the spiritual in social justice practice in the 21st Century


Chair: Frederique Apffel-Marglin, Professor, Anthropology, Smith College

"After Freire: A Buddhist Perspective on Gender/Sexual Orientation in Educational Practice"
Professor Lourdes Argulles, Graduate School of Education, Claremont University

"Who are the Oppressed?"
Loyda Sanchez, Director of CAIPACHA, Cochibamba, Bolivia

"Whose Oppression is this?: The cultivation of compassionate action in dissolving the dualistic barrier
Phyllis Robinson, Ed.D. Going Public with Spirituality in Higher Education, Chancellor's Office, UMass



Chair: Prof. Ashoka Bandarage, Women's Studies, Mt. Holyoke College

"How the Ideas of Paulo Freire Contribute to the Cultural Roots of the Ecological Crisis"
Professor Chet A. Bowers, University of Oregon and Portland State University, School of Education.

"Beyond Freire and Gandhi: Another way of conceiving political action"
Siddhartha, Director and Founder of Pipal Tree, Bangalore, India

"Beyond Critical Theory: Foregrounding race and ethnicity"
Susana Nakamoto-Gonzalez, Claremont Graduate School of Education


Chair: Adjunct Faculty, School of Education, Katja Hahn-d'Ericco, University of Massachusetts

"The European Impact on Inuit: Dissolving the body and place with the ideologies of print and price"
Derek Rasmussen, policy advisor on economic, social and educational policies to Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc., the elected body representing the Inuit of Nunavut Territory in Northern Canada.

"Toward a Pedagogy of Crianza (Nurturance)"
Grimaldo Rengifo, Director and founder of PRATEC, Lima, Peru

PLENARY SESSION with all speakers

Chair: Prof. David R. Evans, Center for International Education, School of Education, University of Massachusetts


The Smith Lecture Fund
Five Colleges, Inc.
The Office of the Chancellor, University of Massachusetts.
Third World Studies, Hampshire College
Women Studies, Mount Holyoke College
Center for International Education, University of Massachusetts

Frederique Apffel-Marglin chairing a panel
Discussions at lunchScenes from the Symposium at University of Massachusetts

Paper Summaries & Biographical Notes on the Speakers

 Lourdes Arguelles

Lourdes ArguelleLourdes Arguelles was born in Cuba and educated in North America, Europe and the Tibetan settlement of Dharamsala in India. She joined the Student Revolutionary Directorate that fought the Batista dictatorship at age 14 and was a member of the exile delegation that negotiated with the Cuban government the release of 3500 political prisoners in 1979/80. She also worked with refugee camps throughout Asia.

She is Professor of Education at Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California and Director of the Community Learning Network, a series of grassroot learning exchanges involving faculty, staff, and students of the Claremont Colleges who work with residents of local communities in the Los Angeles region and U.S.-Mexico Border cities on issues of homelessness, domestic and police violence, hate crimes, immigration, and popular education. A former MacArthur Chair in Women's Studies at the Claremont Colleges, community organizer and psychotherapist, Professor Arguelles' current teaching and research focuses on grassroots learning theory, narrative inquiry and therapy, non-industrial ways of living, learning, and dying, and wisdom traditions. Her work has been published in academic and popular journals around the world. Professor Arguelles is currently working on a book entitled "Grassroots Learning: An Unschooling Agenda". She lives with her life companion, Anne Rivero, in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California.

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Loyda Sánchez Bejarano

Summary of Presentation

Who are the Oppressed?
This article explores the author's journey of personal change via political activism and ultimately de-colonizing herself by living with Andean peasant farmers (campesinos). After suffering many hardships and exile in the 70s, the author turned to participatory education (PE) as a tool for organizing social-revolutionary change among Bolivian campesinos. This was an expression of a deep commitment to Socialist-Leninist views to societal liberation grounded on the premise that the working masses could never form their own philosophy of change. However, dialectics, has little meaning from an Andean-centered perspective. The authors relationship to the communities was based on workshops stressing action-reflection-action, which started with the campesino's practical experiences, then moved on to reflection and the realization of larger patterns at play in their lives. But the campesinos were not able to abstract their own practices as phenomenon at the margins of their lives. Instead they lived their feelings, ideas, and thoughts; they stayed in their immediate life contexts; they did not live life as a class struggle; they saw life as a series of circumstances.

The author later acknowledges that action-reflection-action is based on a way of thinking of the world that is very rational and scientific. The author and her team tried to organize campesinos into syndicated cadres, to no avail - because they never had the same person twice in their workshops, given the Andean sense of knowledge sharing. A notion of class struggle was meaningless within the Andean-centered perspective where hierarchical authority was non-existant. Instead, authority was based on a communal sense of rotating leadership responsibility.

Understanding this notion of community from the Andean perspective came slowly to the author and her team, where every aspect of life saw the presence of mutual cooperation. Ultimately, they came to understand that their way of thinking was methodologically flawed. A notion which had previously assured them that revolution not only was possible but necessary, was based completely on "faith" and governed by universal laws. Under this conception, what was understood was that the oppressed were the peasants and the day laborers, when in fact, the author and her team themselves felt oppressed because they sought to change a world that did not conform to their ideas. While at same time the Andean campesino, simply nurtured everything. In time the author and her team found themselves transformed by the nurturing they received throughout the workshops, activities and fiestas with the campesinos.

Biographical Sketch

Loyda SanchezLoyda Sanchez is Bolivian, born in a small town on the Brazilian border. She studied economics at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres in La Paz, and later studied pedagogy in Cochabamba, both in Bolivia.

Since 1970 she was a militant of the ELN, the army founded by Che Guevarra. Due to this activity she was exiled to Chile, Argentina and Peru. She was incarcerated in 1976 by the Bolivian military government until 1978 and then deported to Argentina. Back in her country she worked for the Central Bank for a year until there was another military coup that forced her to take refuge in the city of Cochabamba in 1980.

From 1980 until 1990 she has worked with indigenous peasant communities in the valleys around Cochabamba as a member of several NGOs. During this time she worked intensely with the Freirian methodology of Popular Education. Toward the end of the 80s she begins a critical reflection on this methodology, grounded in her experiences with the communities she worked with.

She is currently the coordinator of CAIPACHA, an NGO dedicated to Andean/Amazonian cultural affirmation and mental decolonization. CAIPACHA accomplishes this principally through a Graduate Course on "Andean Culture and Agriculture" as well as through projects dedicated to the revalorization of peasant knowledge and technology, to the increase of bio-diversity and of the phytogenetic resources of the peasant communities.

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Phyllis Robinson

Summary of Presentation

Whose Oppression Is This? The cultivation of compassionate action

in dissolving the Dualistic Barrier

When finding the cause and imagining the solution to another's suffering is our profession, a barrier is erected. Our expertise separates us from those we wish to help. This paper examines this dilemma from the personal perspective of a participatory education practitioner who attempted to take Freire's theories of oppression into her work with Cambodian Buddhist nuns in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. The paper is a subjective view of the author's journey; a painful awakening to the harmful effect which an attachment to an ideal of liberation can have. Insights from a Buddhist practice of mindfulness help the reader see how the author now views her work as"suffering with"–a more open and flexible view. In the words of physician, Naomi Remen: "she serves life not because it is broken, but because it is holy".

Biographical Sketch

Phyllis RobinsonPhyllis Robinson, Director of "Courageous Crossings", an organization which provides meditation retreats for international development workers, is based in Amherst. She has spent 10 years working with women in Cambodia and prior to that in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. Her training in Freirean approaches to education came from her doctoral work at the Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts.

Her experience of the limitations of Freirean pedagogy came early during her work with Cambodian Buddhist nuns in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. Her PhD thesis explores the issues raised by this experience.


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Grimaldo RengifoGrimaldo Rengifo

Grimaldo Rengifo was born in Tocache, a small town in the Upper Amazon region of Peru. He holds a B. Ed. From the National University del Centro, Huancayo, Peru and went on to study anthropology at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. He is the founder and coordinator of PRATEC, which was created in 1988. PRATEC started teaching a graduate course in 1990 on Andean Culture and Agriculture. This was the first time that Andean agriculture - world famous for its astounding bio-diversity and creativity - was being taught at the University level. None of the 24 Faculties of Agronomy of Peru include native agriculture in their curriculum.

Before creating PRATEC, he held various posts in government and international organizations, including UNEP and FAO. He also worked for several years as a trainer at the Centro Nacional de Investigacion y Capacitacion (National Center for Research and Training) for the agrarian reform. It is during that time that he employed Freire's method of popular education. After this he became the Executive Coordinator of an international rural development project funded by the Dutch government at CENCIRA. He is the author of numerous books and papers.

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Chet Bowers chetbowers@worldnetATT.Net

Chet A. Bowers
Chet A. Bowers has served on the faculty of the University of Oregon and Portland State University, and is now semi-retired. He is the author of 11 books, numerous articles that address the connections between education, culture, and the ecologicl crisis. His most recent books include: Educating for an Ecologically Sustainable Culture: Rethinking Moral Education, Creativity, Intelligence and Other Modern Orthodoxies (1995); The Culture of Denial: Why the Envrironmental Movement Needs a Strategy for Reforming Universities and Public Schools (1997); Let Them Eat Data: How computers affect education, cultural diversity, and the prospects of ecological sustainability. (2000)

His most recent book, The Practice of an Eco-Justice Pedagogy is now in press

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Siddhartha studied law in India and Anthropology at the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1982 to 1984 he was the international coordinator of INODEP International in Paris and before that was INODEP's Asian coordinatoSiddharthar during 4 years. INODEP's founder and first president was Paulo Freire.

He founded several organizations in India and in Europe including the South-North Network on Cultures and Development, both in Brussels. In India he founded the following organizations: The Institute for Cultural Research and Action (a training institute for social activists partly utilizing the Frierian methodology); Fedina (a field organization working in 15 tribal and peasant villages in South India); Pipal Tree (a network for fighting fundamentalism and promoting communal harmony as well as cultural and spiritual renewal).

He is currently the Asia-Pacific coordinator of The Alliance for a Responsible and United World, an international program on social alternatives. He is also the coordinator of a global alternative media program called "The Transforming World".

Siddhartha publishes regularly in the Indian as well as in the international press on social issues. He also has published chapters in several books. He is currently editing a book on Culture and Democracy in the Asia-Pacific region for the Intercultural Library in Paris.

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Derek Rasmussen

Summary of Presentation

The European Impact on Inuit: Dissolving the body and place
with the ideologies of print and price

Paulo Freire called for "intervention", "liberation" and "transformation"; he called for the "oppressed" to rescue themselves with the help of his liberatory pedagogy (Freire, 1974). Freirean educators believe that conferring literacy on members of an oral culture would make them, in Havelock's words, "wake up from the dream." Nunavummiut have serious reservations about the Freirean rescue mission, especially when it seems to lead to the undoing of established ways of life. The two main life-preservers the Rescuers offer the world are Education and Economy, otherwise known as print and price, alphabet and money, bank books and school books. However, what the rescuers view as tools of salvation, the rest of the world experiences as the things which cast them further adrift. We Euro-Americans -- and I include Paulo Freire here -- we believe that we are compassionate. We don't like to see suffering. The Buddha said : "Cease to do evil, learn to do good, that is the way of the awakened ones." Well, 80% of the worlds resources are being diverted to us--the 20% of the worlds' richest people. Instead of spending a lot of time and money trying to help the rest of the world learn our economic system or learn our educational system -- maybe it would be better if we focused on putting our own houses in order. Maybe this could be thought of as a "pedagogy for the oppressor."

Biographical Sketch

Derek Rasmussen
Derek Rasmussen is a policy advisor to Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI), the representative body for the Inuit of Nunavut Territory in Canada. In 1993, after a 20 year struggle, the Inuit of the Eastern North American Arctic settled a land claims agreement with the Canadian government in addition to Inuit title to 350,000 square kilometers of land. Derek advises NTI on economic and social policies, including education policy; he has lived in Iqaluit, the new capital of Nunavut, since 1991.

Derek Rasmussen received an MA in Education from Simon Fraser University and prior to moving to Nunavut, attended a Buddhist seminary school in Ontario for three years. He has also been active in peace and anti-intervention movements, as a cofounder of the Canadian East Timor Program in the early 1980's.

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Susana Nakamoto-Gonzalez

Susana Nakamoto-Gonzalez was born in Lima, Peru and was educated in Peru, North America, and Hawaii. She holds her BA in Sociology and MA in Linguistics and Literature. She has taught at the University of Hawaii and at the High School and community college levels in California. While conducting her doctoral studies she also served as a faculty associate in the School of Education at Claremont Graduate University. During the nineties Susana served as coordinator and regional director of the California Reading and Literature Project (CRLP). It was during this period of study that Freirian pedagogy and philosophy guided her literary curriculum. Recently Susana completed her doctoral coursework and dissertation proposal at Claremont Graduate University, Center for Educational Studies. Inspired by her doctoral studies and personal and teaching experiences her research interests have focused on multi-racialness, pedagogy of spirituality, and spirituality and science. Currently Susana is member of Pi Lambda Theta International Honor Society and Professional Association in Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University. She is a full-time faculty member of Golden West College in California.


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