Media and Creative Industries celebrates one of the leading social scientists of the 20th Century

More than two thousand people signed up in less than three days to participate in the cycle of debates on Paulo Freire's centenary, organised by the Institute for Media and Creative Industries (IMCI) at Loughborough University London, in collaboration with the Brazilian NGO Ubiqua.

"Considering that Freire has often been the target of attacks by malicious groups, we thought we were being attacked", says Dr Ana Cristina Suzina, researcher within the Institute for Media and Creative Industries and one of the organisers of the cycle. "After countless checks, we found that the 2,000 registered participants – totalling more than six thousand registrations for the seven talks – were real people, interested in knowing more, updating themselves and talking about the work of the Brazilian educator. When asked, many of the enrolled people said that the harshness and uncertainty of the present times require Freire", she says.

With this ambitious cycle of debates, held virtually from 9-24 March, Loughborough University paid tribute to and celebrated the centenary of the world renown Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997). Freire is also one of the founding fathers of communication for social change research and practice, having inspired generations across both the global south and north.

Freire's ontological call is associated with five principles - humility, empathy, love, hope and dialogue. He presented this as the foundation of one of his main works, 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed', originally published in 1968. These principles were developed by Freire in different degrees and forms in all his works, but they also served as inspiration for many scholars, communicators and practitioners from civil society around the world. During the cycle's debates, the series questioned: can these principles still inspire you to think creatively for the next 100 years?

In two plenary conferences and five global dialogues, the conversation cycle involved speakers from social movements, NGOs and universities as well as independent public intellectuals, film documentarists, activists and others, from 10 countries across the globe. Between 160 and 300 people attended each event from 48 countries. In total, the seven conversations gathered almost 1,500 participations (856 individual participants; some of them participating in more than one event).

The cycle's speakers included Frei Betto (Brazil), Claudia Magallanes Blanco (Mexico), Mayrá Lima (Brazil), Karin Wilkins (USA), Xavier Carbonell (Cuba), Linje Manyozo (Australia), James Deane (United Kingdom), Benjamin Ferron (France), Eriberto Gualinga Montalvo (Ecuador), Anita Gurumurthy (India), Colin Chasi (South Africa) and Ailton Krenak (Brazil).

"Reactions like 'In these meetings I was able to find possibilities for hope!!' or 'Thanks for the reflections shared with all of us. It is very important and necessary to listen to such wise and human reflections' make us understand that discussing Freire is absolutely topical from an intellectual and citizen point of view, for Brazil and for the whole world", ponders Professor Thomas Tufte, Director of the Institute for Media and Creative Industries.

"This cycle of debates is part of a journey of reflections upon Freire's legacy, which the Institute for Media and Creativ Industries has pursued over the last three years. It has included seminars, lectures and workshops, in addition to several special issues of international journals. The Institute now plans to expand reflections on communication and social change in collaboration with researchers and communicators from various parts the world, and also have Freire's ideas inform the curriculum of two new MA programmes in International Development that Loughborough University London will launch in 2022" adds Tufte.

All recorded talks of Paulo Freire Centennial cycle will be available between April and May on the website of the seminar. The content is also being converted into a book that will be published by the Institute of Network Cultures (University of Amsterdam), with free access. Furthermore, local groups, academic or not, are invited to pursue local debates, connecting Freire's works to local contexts and realities, and to also discuss Freire's ideas up against thinkers from their countries who raise similar questions. "The idea is to keep the conversation going and feed thoughts and practices based on collective reflections and connected with people's lives, as Freire provoked," concludes Dr Ana Cristina Suzina.

The book “Freire and the Perseverance of Hope”, edited by the Institute of Network Cultures, is an outcome of the cycle “Paulo Freire Centennial: 7 Talks in Preparation for the Next 100 years”, held by the Institute for Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London and Instituto Ubiqua, in March of 2021. It was launched in September 2022 and the recording of this launch is now available. Watch it here on YouTube.