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Amartya Sen and Paulo Freire – What can emancipatory development learn from them?

July 19 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm UTC+10

Talk by Dr. Bill Walker
July 19, 3 pm AEST
Hosted by the HDCA Asia-Pacific Regional Network (APRN)

The Zoom link for the meeting ##

Meeting ID: 860 8095 7288

Password: 061745

Abstract: Amartya Sen and Paulo Freire are two of the most influential development thinkers of the last fifty years. While both emphasized that development requires freedom and justice, their writings emerged in markedly different contexts, their assumptions often differed, they reached distinctively different conclusions, and their work spawned separate movements. This paper aims to compare their thinking and explore potential synergies between them and their movements, which are germane to contemporary development.

For this paper, I distinguish three areas of their respective legacies:

1.   Earlier writings establishing their respective approaches to development as freedom.

2.   The ensuing corpus of their work and the many possibilities through which each has been and can be further developed.

3.   Their work on various issues, including subsequent more applied, empirically grounded, and contextually rich inquiry arising from it.

An overview of the first offers a basis for focussing on the third, highlighting their relevance to our increasingly autocratic twenty-first-century world. I leave the second area for others to explore.

I outline the similarities and differences between Sen and Freire in the first area and the approach I use to reconcile them.

Since many participants are more likely to be familiar with Sen's work, which is more recent, than with Freire's, I suggest four distinctive aspects of Freire's work to stimulate our conversation with Sen's work:

a) humanising praxis is needed to overcome the ongoing effects of dehumanising colonisation

b) collective freedom from oppression requires deep democratisation and critical, social learning and praxis for lasting community transformation

c) the nexus between culture, power, and collective action outcomes

d) Freire's call to 'reinvent' his praxis   

Please join us for a presentation by Bill followed by what we hope to be a stimulating discussion afterwards. Please invite your colleagues and friends and send us a confirmation line.

Bill Walker bio:

Over the last three decades, my work has ranged across international public policy and campaigning, corporate social responsibility, innovation in and research on decolonising participatory governance, realist research on primary education, and child- and youth-led research to influence public policy and claim ‘living’ rights.

Building on my PhD by publication completed in 2018, my current research focuses on critical and appreciative reinventions of Freirean praxis applied to systems of participatory governance in the Global South, such as health, education, child protection and ecological systems. Of particular interest to me are the cultural and historical drivers of grassroots socio-political and ecological change, and the shared learning processes by which marginalised communities systematically influence and democratise such systems and foster responsiveness to their struggles for shared, sustained wellbeing.

Work in progress includes the third of a 3-part blog for the Development Studies Association of Australia, a co-authored conference paper on cultural capabilities and institutional change for the forthcoming annual conference of the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA) and the lead presentation to a HDCA preconference roundtable I initiated comparing the thinking of Amartya Sen with that of Paulo Freire.

Overall, my interests are interdisciplinary. As a pracademic I strive to integrate useful theory, evidence and ‘surprise breakthroughs’ in development practice, especially those being upscaled for locally valued ends.


July 19
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm UTC+10
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