|Action Research Report on «Reflect» - Education Research Paper No.17 (DFID, 1996, 96 p.)|
|2. Theoretical roots of the new method: reflect|
Chambers (1983, 1993) is the key figure behind PRA, having written and trained extensively. He has often spoken of the origins of PRA and refers to Paulo Freire's work on dialogue and conscientization as one of the central influences:
"Participatory Rural Appraisal belongs to, draws on, and overlaps with other members of a family of approaches that have been or are participatory in various ways. These include the community development of the 1950s and 1960s, the dialogics and conscientization of Paulo Freire, participatory action research, and the work of activist NGOs." (Chambers 1991)
Brown (1994) however, argues that there are some serious contradictions between the work of Chambers and Freire. For Chambers "culture" is "a positive social force exemplifying valid beliefs and attitudes already possessed by the peasantry, though blocked by external political controls". Chambers believes in "the capacity of the underclasses to initiate valid social actions on the basis of their existing knowledge and beliefs".
To Freire, in contrast, "culture" is "fundamentally problematic". Underlying Freire's writing are many references to cognitive barriers (in his descriptions of naive/ magical consciousness). Although he blames these on external forces of oppression (rather than blaming people themselves) and regularly refers to the importance of "love" for the people, Freire appears not to trust their existing knowledge and beliefs - seeing them as needing to be transcended. Freire implicitly elevates "rational knowledge" and implies a hierarchy of knowledge systems. This (according to Brown 1994) can "only reinforce whatever ideological biases exist within both the extension agency and the wider society, cutting the intervention off from any capacity to draw upon the positive elements in the claimed dual consciousness of the oppressed."
It is not then just a question of "regenerating Freire" as there may be flaws in his theoretical analysis. REFLECT is rooted in a faith in people's existing knowledge and beliefs as a starting point - and this comes more from Chambers than from Freire.