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The Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC) aims to constitute a space for Latin American perspectives that brings together researchers working on Latin American contexts and all those interested in hearing more about it. It aims to make visible the region’s knowledge production and current debates linked to education research towards the diversification and decolonisation of academia. 

CLAREC, November 16, 2020
What could a conference on popular education be, based on the ideas of popular education and Paulo Freire?

The second edition of the Freire Conference, “Building the bridge between popular education and university”, which took place between 17 and 21 October at the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge and in two academic institutions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was an experience in that sense. It was an initiative organised by a collective of people based in multiple educational institutions and social movements which proposes to broaden the limits and cross the barriers that separate the academic communities (particularly those belonging to the most traditional and hegemonic institutions) from education and popular knowledge by promoting meetings, relationships and democratic spaces that have in common a striving for transformation and social justice.

The first edition of this conference took place in 2021, the year in which the birth centenary of educator Paulo Freire was celebrated. It emerged from a provocative challenge: to think and carry out a “popular conference”, which had its foundations and values based on Freire’s idea of “popular education”. For the Brazilian educator, popular education is carried out with the people, the oppressed or the marginalised classes, from a particular conception of a liberating, political and ethical education. An education oriented to the transformation of society which starts from the concrete and lived context to reach the theoretical context, requiring epistemological curiosity, problematisation, rigorousness, creativity, dialogue, the experience of the praxis and the protagonism of the subjects. 

In this sense, a popular education conference proposal should be (i) essentially dialogical, rather than the typical academic-expository one in which the transfer of knowledge in a unilateral way is predominant; (ii) it must overcome meritocratic proposal selection criteria that assume that some knowledge is more important and valid than others and therefore deserves to be ‘selected or chosen’; and (iii) should break the hegemonic barriers of language, access, format or perspective that exclude or discourage the participation of individuals and groups marginalised by academia due to various limitations – in this way, actions concerned with accessibility and the free access to educational spaces must be a priority.

Based on those principles and purpose, the Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC) and the Brazilian popular education social movement Universidade Emancipa developed the 1st Freire Conference, “The Thoughts of Paulo Freire in the Current Research in Education”, at the University of Cambridge. That experience is described and shared by CLAREC members Alexandre da Trindade and Juliana Spadotto in a chapter of the book “Paulo Freire e a educação popular: esperançar em tempos de barbárie” (Paulo Freire and popular education: hope in times of barbarism) organised by Joana Salém, Maíra Mendes, and Daniela Mussi, to be launched in Portuguese in December 2022. This chapter has been translated into English and is now available at the Knowledge, Power, and Politics (KPP) Blog.

This question has stimulated us, the Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC) and the Universidade Emancipa, in the last two years.

Today it is one month since the second edition of the Freire Conference, “Building the bridge between popular education and the university“, took place – an educational experience that hoped to meet this challenge. The experience of the first edition of the Conference, which took place online and at the University of Cambridge in 2021, the year of the centenary of Paulo Freire’s birth, is shared by CLAREC members Alexandre da Trindade and Juliana Spadotto in a chapter of the book “Paulo Freire e a educação popular: esperançar em tempos de barbárie” (Paulo Freire and popular education: hope in times of barbarism) organised by Joana Salém, Maíra Mendes, and Daniela Mussi, to be launched in Portuguese in December 2022. This chapter has been translated into English and is now available at the Knowledge, Power, and Politics (KPP) Blog.

To find out more about the book and how to buy it, please access here.

✍🏻 Drawing made by CLAREC Member Julia Hayes during the I Freire Conference.


This piece was originally published at Faculty of Education webpage.

Local activists, enterprises, artists, charities and community groups will be involved in an exchange of cultural activities and discussions on 19 October, organised by students at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education.

The event will make the Faculty an open, shared space for the day, where community representatives and academics can discuss various local issues and, it is hoped, kick-start lasting collaborations to achieve positive change in the area.

The takeover is part of an annual conference celebrating Paulo Freire, the influential Brazilian educator. Its organisers are a group of Latin American students, who are drawing inspiration from Freire’s ideas about ‘popular education’.

Popular education is a relatively familiar concept in Latin America, but has not been tried at a British university before. Unlike the formal education that takes place in schools, popular education – which often happens with adults as well as children – is shaped by the participants themselves. It often starts from people’s personal experiences of various political and social problems, and aims to empower them to work together towards solutions. Everyone teaches and learns from each other as they strive towards these goals.

The Cambridge event has been particularly inspired by Rede Emancipa: a Brazilian social justice movement which defends the right to education for all. A simultaneous ‘takeover’ will be happening at the Federal University of Rio De Janeiro, with the two institutions linking up through a live stream. More than 2,000 people have signed up for the joint events.

If we can start a meaningful dialogue about issues around which we can unite, the university will become a space that belongs to everyone.

The Cambridge side will involve groups such as Arthur Rank Hospice, Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum and Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre. The programme is part-conference, part-community festival, involving live performances, showcases by local artists and independent street food traders. There will be various activities, drawing on a range of established approaches to facilitating popular education, and aimed at starting open conversations on how to improve the wider Cambridge community.

The emphasis will be on local difficulties with inequality, marginalisation and social exclusion. Cambridge has been identified as Britain’s least equal city. Although it is extremely prosperous thanks to its universities and the closely-linked tech and biomedical clusters, the top 6% of earners take home almost one fifth of the income generated, while the bottom 20% earn just 2% of the total.

The University already has a thriving range of community engagement projects, but the students hope that popular education might add an extra dimension to those efforts. In Latin America, this often involves allowing educational institutions like universities to be symbolically ‘reterritorialised’ by the local community, to stimulate new ideas about working together.

Heidy Perez-Cordero, a PhD student from the Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC), said: “These sorts of exchanges are quite common in countries like Brazil, Mexico and Chile. We are interested in how they might work here. Cambridge is a deeply unequal place, and we have a responsibility to make the university a resource that people can draw on in ways that matter to them. The idea is that if we can start a meaningful dialogue about issues around which we can unite, the university will become a space that belongs to everyone.”

Rede Emancipa – the event’s principal source of inspiration – began in Sao Paolo in 2007, and initially involved running free, pre-university courses for people on low incomes, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities and others. It now has a presence across Brazil, and its mission has evolved to support communities by advancing causes or agendas which matter to them.

Maíra Tavares Mendes, an Associate Professor at the State University of Santa Cruz, Brazil, who is co-organising the Freire conference, said: “The key thing Rede Emancipa does is organise. It starts when a group of people want to achieve something – say, a sports project, or an education programme for children. Rede Emancipa brings together different resources in the community to help achieve that goal. Universities are obviously centres of expertise, but they are also places where people can get together and organise in this way.”

The programme for the event has been structured by studying the methods of other successful popular education movements – such as the Popular University of Social Movements (UPMS), which was created at the 2003 World Social Forum.

Some of their techniques will be used to stimulate a semi-structured community dialogue: an open discussion about what the different participants do, the challenges they face, and how they might work together. The plan is to open this with a mistica: a form of ritual in which people express the ambitions and ideas that brough them to the event, which helps to set the terms of the discussion. There will also be exhibitions of local artists’ and craftspeoples’ work, and a sarau – a gathering aimed at sharing different cultural traditions and ideas through dance, music, performance and poetry.

Organisers see the event as having potential mutual benefits for all involved. While local activists and advocacy groups may find ways to draw on the academic expertise on their doorstep, educationalists and social scientists from the Faculty will be able to meet people whose experiences interlink with their own research.

The problem with unequal societies is that problems tend to get processed individually. The greatest benefits come when instead we use shared spaces to bring people together.

Ila Chandavarkar, who is chair of the Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre, said: “We don’t really know what’s going to happen, but what I like about the concept is that it opens up possibilities.”

“Cambridge is so divided and we miss a trick by not joining forces more often. The women in our centre, for example, have a wealth of lived experience that can inform academic research, just as much as academics might be able to help them to change things on a wider scale. The problem with unequal societies is that problems tend to get processed individually. The greatest benefits come when instead we use shared spaces to bring people together, and use their complementary skills and knowledge to collaborate towards change that is needed.”

More information about the 2022 Freire events can be found on the CLAREC website.

Images in this story:
Images of Rede Emancipa events, University of Sao Paolo, 2017-19, by kind permission of the Rede Emancipa archive.


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The “II Freire Conference: Building the bridge between popular education and university”, organised by the Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC) and Universidade Emancipa, took place between the 17th and 21st of October 2022. It was an international, multicultural, and interdisciplinary initiative organised by a collective of people based in multiple academic institutions and social movements.

Our Manifesto

[en español] [em português]

The foundations and functioning of the current global education system lie in northern and western countries’ predominance, being these located at the top while some are at the bottom. Latin American ideas, alongside other southern perspectives, are not part of the hegemonic curriculum that top universities together with the entire higher education system reproduce. Latin American authors and epistemologies are rarely mentioned in these programs and tend to be overlooked or considered as mere distant research backgrounds.

In this context, the Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective (CLAREC) aims to constitute a space for Latin American perspectives towards a diversification and decolonisation of academia within the Faculty of Education and beyond; to promote dialogue and collaboration around knowledge development of regional interest in the field of educational research, as well as to democratize access to knowledge produced in this very privileged and elitist place.

This initiative was inspired by the common concern which we, as Latin American students and allies at the University of Cambridge, shared during our academic journey: the need for representation and legitimation, and opportunity to make visible knowledge, ideas, and current debates within the Latin American context. It is, at the same time, an opportunity for bringing together researchers working on Latin American contexts, and for opening it up for anyone who is interested in participating or simply hearing more about it.


See on the map below where some of our members are from or their research regions in Latin America.

Watch the panel and discussion of the thought-provoking event “The role of education in the fake news era” organised by CLAREC at the Faculty of Education

Click below to watch our past CLAREC Whereabouts Seminars.
Watch “CLAREC in Mexico City: insights from the World Social Forum 2022 and the CLACSO 2022 Conference” – an informal conversation with CLAREC members Rocío Fernández and Alexandre Trindade about two relevant events that took place in Mexico City in 2022.
Watch all the powerful presentations on #inclusiveeducation in Latin America at the CLAREC Seminar “Thinking critically about inclusive education in Latin America: Disability inclusion in Colombia” with CLAREC member Dr. Julia Hayes.
Watch CLAREC Whereabouts Seminar: “What can we learn from the voices of novice teachers trained in Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic?” with our guest speakers Artemio Arturo Cortez Ochoa & Israel Moreno Salto. 
Watch CLAREC Whereabouts Seminar: “Mothers and Daughters: intertwined memories, healing trauma and the rupture with paid domestic work in Brazil” with CLAREC member Anna Maria Del Fiorentino @memoriasentrelacadas 
Watch CLAREC Whereabouts Seminar: “Teachers’ formative assessment of reading comprehension in Chile: challenges and opportunities” with CLAREC member Elisa de Padua
Watch ‘CLAREC Whereabouts Seminar Series’ of the year: ‘Play and Health: The Revolution of Paediatric Healthcare in Mexico’ with CLAREC member Paulina Pérez-Duarte

We are extremely grateful to the Faculty’s community and all our partners for embracing the CLAREC project “Paulo Freire 100th Anniversary: Celebrating his legacy in education” by collaborating and supporting us in every step of this two-week journey of celebration of Freire’s legacy. Having made it possible for us to install a Freire sculpture at the University of Cambridge is a milestone that will surely inspire others to go further in the dream of making education a viable means of dialogue, love and social transformation. The message published by the Faculty makes us feel more motivated to follow our dreams for a more inclusive, emancipated, and transformative Education. Let us listen to Freire’s call to create a safe space to foster dialogue and together aim for Liberation.

CLAREC, 2021

“The Decolonial Epistemic Turn and The Idea of Latin America – A conversation with Prof. Walter Mignolo”.

The Cambridge Latin American Research in Education Collective, with the support of the Centre of Latin American Studies (CLAS) and the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, presents a conversation with Prof. Walter Mignolo, William Hane Wannamaker Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University, and a key thinker of the decolonial project. The conversation focus on Prof. Mignolo’s perspective of the invention of Latin America and the possibilities of the decolonial epistemic turn in the present. You can watch below this conversation that took place on April 26, 2021. See the Q&A and chat of this event here.