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Is there a role for Critical Pedagogy in Language/Culture Studies?
An interview with Henry A. Giroux

Manuela Guilherme

Centro de Estudos Sociais
Universidade de Coimbra

Henry Giroux became established as a leading figure in radical education theory in the 1980s. Not only did he revive the arguments for civic education proposed by the main educational theorists of the 20th century, namely Dewey, Freire and others such as the reconstructionists Counts, Rugg and Brameld, but he also advanced their theories by expanding them into the idea of a ‘border pedagogy’. His proposal can be viewed as the application of a post-colonial cosmopolitan perspective to the North American notion of democratic civic education. Giroux provides us with a vision for education that addresses the challenges which demographically and politically changing western societies are facing at the beginning of the 21st century. The longer it takes for policy makers in education to take his guidance seriously, the more time and possibilities we will all be wasting and missing. In fact, educators at all levels of the educational system and all over the world are experiencing growing de-motivation and even frustration because they feel they have been forced backwards lately instead of moving forwards in challenging themselves, both as professionals and citizens, to meet the needs of our fast-changing societies. Giroux has urged educators and academics to react against these paralysing pressures and to be critical, creative and hopeful about the potential that both they and their students offer, in order to counter the conservative political tendencies which have been imposing a definition of excellence in education that means submission to market pressures rather than educational excellence in terms of innovative intellectual production. Giroux argues for both critique and possibility in education and advocates independence and responsibility for teachers and students, that is, he claims dignity and respect for educational institutions, teachers and students. Giroux has bravely recovered the political nature of the everyday labor of educational researchers and of educators themselves. Furthermore, Giroux has also eloquently theorized a critical pedagogy of Cultural Studies based on what was proposed by the educationalist Raymond Williams himself. In fact, the field of Cultural Studies has been problematised, and is itself problematic, although very rich and promising, since it has broken down the barriers between disciplines. Therefore, it needs to be fully theorised in order to describe its goals, as well as the bases of its knowledge and processes. Giroux has made important contributions to these processes by mapping the relationships between language, text, society, new technologies and underlying power structures. He has thus responded to its critics and to those academics who have adhered to it in order to follow fashion or find a way out of their now neglected traditional disciplines. In addition, he has indicated new paths that go beyond recuperating Williams’ and Hall’s politically committed and scientifically founded new field of Cultural Studies and move into examining the implications of new technologies in the exchange and re-creation of new knowledge within new power relationships. It is nonetheless worth mentioning that Giroux has also been successful in identifying new modes of representation and learning.
Giroux has indeed advanced a new school of thought and inspired both educational theorists and practitioners into action with his powerful, vibrant and committed voice. By advocating a pedagogy of responsibility, he has himself taken responsibility for his own political and social role as an academic. He has focused his sights on redefining and strengthening the notion of ‘the public’ with regard to knowledge, education and civic life, mainly by incorporating into the construction of those fields the concepts of ‘public time’ and ‘public arena’. While most educational theorists have focussed on the influence of society on the educational context, Giroux, although critically unveiling the political and economic forces that threaten academic and school independence and creativity, is more daring and clearly draws our attention to the transformative potential of the academy and the school within wider a society. In doing so, he recaptures the political in the pedagogical. Finally, even though he focuses his discourse on general education, civic education and cultural studies, Giroux’s proposals for educational theory and practice offer language and intercultural communication theorists and practitioners a basis for renewing their visions and practices. Having made these points, in an attempt to contextualize Giroux’s statements below, it is now time to let his voice emerge.

MG: In your work, you show a deep and consistent concern for civic life in a globalized world. How do you define a more globalized form of citizenship?

HG: Citizenship invokes a notion of the social in which individuals have duties and responsibilities to others. A globalized notion of citizenship extends that concept of the social contract beyond the boundaries of the nation-state, invoking a broader notion of democracy in which the global becomes the space for exercising civic courage, social responsibility, politics, and compassion for the plight of others. Clearly, for example, the citizens’ obligations to the environment cannot be seen as merely a national problem. At the same time, a globalized notion of citizenship accentuates matters of responsibility and interdependence, invoking citizenship not just as a political issue of rights and entitlements but also as an ethical challenge to narrow the gap between the promise and the reality of a global democracy. It is also important to recognize that the idea of citizenship cannot be separated from the spaces in which citizenship is developed and nurtured. This suggests that any struggle over a globalized and meaningful notion of citizenship that encourages debate and social responsibility must include fostering and developing democratic public spheres such as schools, media, and other institutions in which critical civic pedagogies can be developed. The notion of global citizenship suggests that politics must catch up with power which today has removed itself off from local and state control. New political structures, global institutions, and social movements must develop that can reach and control the flows of uncontrolled power, particularly economic power. Real citizenship in the global sense means enabling people to have a say in the shaping of international laws governing trade, the environment, labor, criminal justice, social protections, and so on. Citizenship as the essence of politics has to catch up with new social formations that the current political and social institutions of the nation-state cannot influence, contain, or control.

 

MG:What specific capacities does this new cosmopolitan citizen need to develop?

HG: Citizens for a global democracy need to be aware of the interrelated nature of all aspects of physical, spiritual, and cultural life. This means having a deep-rooted understanding of the relational nature of global dependencies, whether we are talking about the ecosphere or the circuits of capital. Second, citizens need to be multi-literate in ways that not only allow them access to new information and media-based technologies, but also enable them to be border crossers capable of engaging, learning from, understanding, and being tolerant of and responsible to matters of difference and otherness. This suggests reclaiming as central to any viable notion of citizenship, the values of mutual worth, dignity, and ethical responsibility. At stake here is the recognition that there is a certain civic virtue and ethical value in extending our exposure to difference and otherness. Citizens need to cultivate loyalties that extend beyond the nation-state, beyond a theoretical distinction in which the division between friend and enemy is mediated exclusively around national boundaries. Clearly, citizenship as a form of empowerment means acquiring the skills that enable one to critically examine history, and resuscitate those dangerous memories in which knowledge both expands the possibilities for self-knowledge and critical and social agency. Knowledge cannot be only indigenous to be empowering. Individuals must also have some distance from the knowledge of their birth, origins, and specificity of place. This suggests appropriating those knowledges that emerge through dispersal, travel, border crossings, diaspora, and through global communications. A cosmopolitan notion of citizenship must recognize the importance of dissent and a culture of questioning to any global concept of democracy. The global public sphere must be a place where authority can be questioned, power held accountable, and dissent seen as having a positive value. There is a growing authoritarianism in many parts of the world, particularly the United States. In facing this threat to democracy around the globe, it is crucial for educators, parents, young people, workers, and others to fight the collapse of citizenship into forms of jingoistic nationalism. This means educators and others will have to reinvigorate democracy by assuming the pedagogical project of prioritizing debate, deliberation, dissent, dialogue, and public spaces as central to any viable notion of global citizenship. In addition, If citizenship is to be global, it must develop a sense of radical humanism that comprehends social and environmental justice outside of national boundaries. Human suffering does not stop at the borders of nation-states.

MG: In my view, one of your most inspiring proposals is the claim for a more dignifying and committed role of the educator at all levels of the educational system. Do you confirm this as one of your main goals? How do you summarise the main goals of your writing?

HG: I have always argued that teachers must be treated as a critical public resource, essential not only to the importance of an empowering educational experience for students but also the formation of a democratic society. At the institutional level, this means giving teachers an opportunity to exercise power over the conditions of their work. We cannot separate what teachers do from the economic and political conditions that shape their work, that is, their academic labor. This means they should have both the time and the power to institute structural conditions that allow them to produce curriculum, collaborate with parents, conduct research, and work with communities. Moreover, school buildings must be limited in size to permit teachers and others to construct, maintain, and enhance a democratic community for themselves and their students. We are talking not only about the issue of class size but how space is institutionally constructed as part of a political project compatible with the formation of lived, democratic communities. Secondly, teachers should be given the freedom to shape the school curricula, engage in shared research with other teachers and with others outside of the school, and to play a central role in the governance of the school and their labor. Educational empowerment for teachers cannot be separated from issues of power and governance. Educators should be valued as public intellectuals who connect critical ideas, traditions, disciplines, and values to the public realm of everyday life. But at the same time, educators must assume the responsibility of connecting their work to larger social issues, while raising questions about what it means to provide students with the skills they need to write policy papers, be resilient against defeat, analyze social problems, and learn the tools of democracy, and learning how to make a difference in one’s life as a social agent.

MG: You also propose a close link between theory and practice, which have been made separate in our academic systems and in our societies. Can you please expand on the advantages of linking them for the purposes of citizenship education?

HG: Citizenship education must take seriously the connection between theory and practice, reflection and action. All too often, theory in academia slides into a form of theoreticism in which theory either becomes an end in itself, relegated to the heights of an arcane, excessive and utterly ethereal existence or it degenerates into a form of careerism, offering the fastest train to academic prominence. But theory is hardly a luxury connected to the fantasy of intellectual power. On the contrary, theory is a resource that enables us to both define and respond to problems as they emerge in particular contexts. Its transformative power resides in the possibility of enabling forms of agency not in its ability to solve problems. Its politics is linked to the ability to imagine the world differently and then to act differently and this is its offering to any viable notion of citizenship education. At stake here is not the question whether theory matters, which should be as obvious as asking whether critical thought matters, but the issue of what the political and public responsibilities of theory might be, particularly in theorizing a global politics for the twenty-first century. Theory is not just about contemplation or paving a way to academic stardom, it is foremost about intervention in the world, raising ideas to the worldly space of public life, social responsibility, and collective intervention in the world. If learning is a fundamental part of social change, theory is a crucial resource to studying the full range of everyday practices that circulate throughout diverse social formations and to find better forms of knowledge and modes of intervention in the face of the challenge of either a growing authoritarianism or a manufactured cynicism.

MG: You have often been accused of equating education with instilling ideological propaganda in their students and you have rejected these accusations by pointing critical pedagogy. How, do you think, does a critical pedagogy promote a free mind?

HG: Far from instilling propaganda in students, I think critical pedagogy begins with the assumption that knowledge and power should always be subject to debate, held accountable, and critically engaged. Central to the very definition of critical pedagogy is a common concern for reforming schools and developing modes of pedagogical practice in which teachers and students become critical agents actively questioning and negotiating the relationship between theory and practice, critical analysis and common sense, and learning and social change. This is hardly a prescription for propaganda. I think critical pedagogy is often seen as dangerous because it is built around a project that goes to the very heart of what education is about and is framed around a series of important and often ignored questions such as: “Why do we [as educators] do what we do the way we do it”? Whose interest does schooling serve? How might it be possible to understand and engage the diverse context in which education takes place? But critical pedagogy is not concerned simply with offering students new ways to think critically and act with authority as agents in the classroom, it is also concerned with providing teachers and students with the skills and knowledge to expand their capacities to both question deep- seated assumptions and myths that legitimate the most archaic and disempowering social practices that structure every aspect of society and to take responsibility for intervening in the world. In other words, critical pedagogy forges critique and agency through a language of scepticism and possibility.

MG: The relevance of humanities departments in universities worldwide is being reconsidered by the university management, by the LABOR market and THE WIDER society MORE GENERALLY. How can, in your opinion, those departments face the challenge not only of survival but also of countering the “crisis of culture”, which you cite from Raymond Williams, and of reclaiming their relevance?

HG: In recent years, I have been working out of a series of projects which address a number of interrelated concerns: the substantive role of culture, in particular popular culture, as the primary site where pedagogy and learning take place, especially for young people; the role that academics and cultural workers might assume as public intellectuals mindful of the constitutive force culture plays in shaping public memory, moral awareness, and political agency; the significance of the university, specifically the humanities, as a public sphere essential to sustaining a vibrant democracy yet under assault by the forces of corporatization, and the centrality of youth as an ethical register for measuring the changing nature of the social contract since the 1980s and its implications for a broader discourse on hope and the future. The humanities traditionally have offered both a refuge and a possibility for thinking about these issues, though under historical conditions which bear little resemblance to the present. This is particularly evident as the conditions for the production of knowledge, national identity, and citizenship have changed in a rapidly globalizing, post-9/11 world order marked by the expansion of new electronic technologies; the consolidation of global media; Western de-industrialization, deregulation, and downsizing; the privatization of public goods and services; and the marketization of all aspects of social life.
The “crisis” in the humanities reflects a crisis within the larger society about the meaning and viability of institutions that define themselves as serving a public rather than private good. The ongoing vocationalization of higher education, the commodification of the curriculum, the increasing role the university plays as part of the national security state, and the transformation of students into consumers have undermined the humanities in its efforts to offer students the knowledge and skills they need for learning how to govern as well as develop the capacities necessary for deliberation, reasoned arguments, and social action. The incursion of corporate and military culture into university life undermines the university’s responsibility to provide students with an education that allows them to recognize the dream and promise of a substantive democracy. While it is true that the humanities must keep up with developments in the sciences, the new media, technology, and other fields, its first responsibility is treat these issues not merely pragmatically as ideas and skills to be learned but as sites of political and ethical intervention, deeply connected to the question of what it means to create students who can imagine a democratic future for all people.
In its best moments, this era of crisis, fear, and insecurity has reinvigorated the debate over the role that the humanities and the university more generally might play in creating a pluralized public culture essential for animating basic precepts of democratic public life. Matters of history, global relations, ethical concerns, creativity and the development of new literacies and modes of communication should be central to any humanities education and the conversation they enable, but at the same time, such conversations have for the most part failed to consider more fundamental issues about the need to revitalize the language of civic education as part of a broader discourse of political agency and critical citizenship in a globalized society. More specifically, a better understanding of why the humanities has avoided the challenge of those critical discourses capable of interrogating how the society represents itself (for example, the gap suggested by the apogee of democracy at the precise moment of its hollowing out) and how and why individuals fail to critically engage such representations is crucial to understand if educators are to intervene in the oppressive social relationships they often legitimate.
Given these contexts, educators in the humanities must ask new kinds of questions beginning with: How do educators respond to value-based questions regarding the “usefulness” of the humanities and the range of purposes it should serve? What knowledges are of most worth? What does it mean to claim authority in a world where borders are constantly shifting? What role does the humanities have in a world in which the “immaterial production” of knowledge becomes the most important form of capital? How might pedagogy be understood as a political and moral practice rather than a technical strategy in the service of corporate culture? And, what relation should the humanities have to young people as they develop a sense of agency, particularly in relation to the obligations of critical citizenship and public life in a radically transformed cultural and global landscape? As citizenship becomes increasingly privatized and youth are increasingly educated to become consuming subjects rather than critical social subjects, it becomes all the more imperative for educators working within the humanities to rethink the space of the social, and to develop a critical language in which notions of the public good, public issues, and public life become central to overcoming the privatizing and depoliticizing language of the market. Central to this issue for me is the role that higher education might play as a democratic public sphere.

MG: You challenge the traditional understanding of the word ‘intellectual’. How does this notion apply to the contemporary world?

HG: I have always believed that the notion of the intellectual carries with it a number of important political, cultural, and social registers. In contrast to the notion that intellectuals are a specialized group of experts, I have argued that everybody is an intellectual in that we all have the capacity to think, produce ideas, be self-critical, and connect knowledge (wherever it comes from) to forms of self and social development. At the same time, those intellectuals who have the luxury of defining their social function through the production of intellectual ideas have a special responsibility to address how power works through the institutions, individuals, social formations, and everyday life so as to enable or close down democratic values, identities, and relations. More specifically, I believe that the most important obligation that intellectuals have to knowledge is through understanding its relationship to power not as a complementary relation but as one of opposition. I think intellectuals whether in or outside of the academy must connect ideas to the world and engage their skills and knowledge as part of a larger struggle over democratic ideas, values and justice. Intellectuals have a responsibility not only to make truth prevail in the world and fight injustice wherever it appears, but also to organize their collective passions to prevent human suffering, genocide, and diverse forms of unfreedom linked to domination and exploitation. Intellectuals have a responsibility to analyze how language, information, and meaning work to organize, legitimate, and circulate values, structure reality, and offer up particular notions of agency and identity. For public intellectuals, the latter challenge demands a new kind of literacy and critical understanding with respect to the emergence of the new media and electronic technologies, and the new and powerful role they play as instruments of public pedagogy. Critical reflection is an essential dimension of justice and is central to civic education, and it is precisely with respect to the keeping justice and democracy alive in the public domain that intellectuals have a responsibility to the global world. Today, the concept of the intellectual, as Pierre Bourdieu reminds us, has become synonymous with public relations, syncophantic apologists, and fast-talking media types. Educators as public intellectuals need a new vocabulary for linking hope, social citizenship, and education to the demands of substantive democracy. I am suggesting that educators need a new vocabulary for connecting not only how we read critically but also how we engage in movements for social change. I also believe that simply invoking the relationship between theory and practice, critique and social action will not do. Any attempt to give new life to a substantive democratic politics must address both how people learn to be political agents and, what kind of educational work is necessary within many kinds of public spaces to enable people to use their full intellectual resources to both provide a profound critique of existing institutions and struggle to work towards fulfilling the promise of a radical global democracy. As public intellectuals, educators and other cultural workers need to understand more fully why the tools we used in the past feel awkward in the present, often failing to respond to problems now facing the United States and other parts of the globe. More specifically, we face the challenge posed by the failure of existing critical discourses to bridge the gap between how the society represents itself and how and why individuals fail to understand and critically engage such representations in order to intervene in the oppressive social relationships they often legitimate. By combining the mutually interdependent roles of critic and active citizen, intellectual work at its best can exercise civic courage as a political practice, a practice that begins when one’s life can no longer be taken for granted. Such a stance not only connects intellectual work to making dominant power accountable, it also makes concrete the possibility for transforming hope and politics into an ethical space and public act that confronts the flow of everyday experience and the weight of social suffering with the force of individual and collective resistance and the unending project of democratic social transformation. The road to authoritarianism begins when societies stop questioning themselves and, when such questioning stops, it is often because intellectuals either have become complicit with such silence or they actively produce it. Clearly, critical intellectuals have a responsibility to oppose this deafening quiet in the face of an emerging global barbarism, evidence of which can be seen in a number of growing religious, political, and economic fundamentalisms.

MG: One of your most radical statements is that every educational act is political and that every political act should be pedagogical. In the same way that your work crosses into different disciplinary areas, you have also tried to link different institutional divisions in which pedagogy takes place: education, politics and the media, just to name a few. What are your reasons for and the risks of such an undertaking?

HG: In the last few decades, I have tried to resurrect the profound insights of theorists such as Antonio Gramsci, Raymond Williams, Edward Said, and others who have argued that the educational force of the broader culture has become one of the most important political sites in the struggle over ideas, values, and agency. Permanent education is a fundamental part of what it means to create those identities and values that constitute the narrative of what constitutes the political. In the past, education was limited to schooling, but it has become clear that most of the education that takes place today, which is so vital to any democracy, takes place in a broader number of sites including screen culture, popular culture, the Internet, and in the all-encompassing old and new media. I have stressed that these new sites of education, which I call the realm of public pedagogy, are crucial to any notion of politics because they are the sites in which people often learn, unlearn, or simply do not get the knowledge and skills that prepare them to become critical agents, capable of not merely understanding the society and world in which they live but also being able to assume the mantle of governance.

MG: You have dedicated a great amount of your recent work to what you consider an unfair treatment of the youth in contemporary societies by both public and private institutions (e.g., the government, the educational system, the press and society in general). What specific role can educators play in countering this trend?

HG: Well, the first thing they can do is to recognize the obligation that adults have to youth if in fact we are going to take seriously not only the social contract but the very possibility of a democratic future. The second thing that can be done is to try to understand those forces, especially neoliberalism, neoconservatism, militarism and religious fundamentalism, that view youth either as a commodity or as utterly expendable, especially poor youth and youth of color, and how they can be challenged in every social institution and addressed through policies that truly view youth as a social investment rather than a threat, fodder for the military, or a commodity.

MG: How do you view the introduction of a new academic interdisciplinary subject that aims to develop intercultural competencies, that is, to improve the students’ capacity to communicate and interact effectively across cultures, both nationally and internationally? How can educators implement this interdisciplinary and intercultural subject within a critical pedagogy approach? Does this project relate to your claims for a “new language for expressing global solidarity”?

HG: I think that the question of intercultural competencies has to be understood within a broader notion of literacy linked to both the acquisition of agency and the ability to recognize that matters of difference are inextricably tied to issues of respect, tolerance, dialogue, and our responsibility to others. Multicultural literacy as a discursive intervention is an essential step toward not only a broader notion of self-representation, but also a more global notion of agency and democracy. Literacy in this sense not only is pluralized and expanded, it is also the site in which new dialogical practices and social relations become possible. Literacy as I am using it here does a kind of bridging work necessary to democracy while also offering up modes of translation that challenge strategies of common sense and domination. At the same time, intercultural competencies must be connected to the central dynamics of power as a way of engaging differences and exclusions so as to understand their formations as part of a historical process of struggle and negotiation. In this instance, such competencies further more than understanding and awareness; they also serve as modes of critical understanding in which dialogue and interpretation are connected to modes of intervention in which cultural differences can be viewed as an asset rather than a threat to democracy.

MG: Your writing style is very powerful and idiosyncratic and you have been both criticised and praised for it. Some of your readers find it too obscure and impregnated with ideology and others find it vibrant, stimulating and very inspiring. I belong to the latter and I would like to ask you to what extent its use is purposeful and what purposes it serves?

HG: I have tried in the last decade to make my writing accessible to a broader public while [delete at the same time] not compromising its theoretical rigor. This seems to present a lot of problems for those academics whose discourse is largely impenetrable, highly specialized, and plugged into narrow definitions of careerism. Academics, especially on the Left in the United States, are generally very bad writers, a problem connected less to matters of skill than to an arcane notion of professionalism. Many live in “theory world” and generally address very specialized audiences. On the one hand, much of their work is indebted to a kind of postmodern irony or cleverness, or is so pedantic, that it lacks either any political integrity or passion. On the other hand, the bar has been set so low in the United States around matters of clarity and style that it is always difficult to reach a broader public if conventional matters of style and language are challenged, as they are in my work. Of course, the grumbling about my work is not merely about style, it is also because I often make the political primary to my work in a way that makes the project I am working out of quite clear. The backlash against committed writing, if not engaged politics, is so strong in universities, the media and other established sites of public pedagogy that asserting the importance of politics as a crucial aspect of everyday life and learning is an incredibly difficult but absolutely necessary fight to wage.

MG: You have been very critical about what the contemporary developed world is providing to the youth, namely more surveillance in schools, the so-called excellence in education translated into more standardised assessment, a commercialised culture, etc. I have no doubts that you are very aware that it is difficult for critical educators, as individual professionals burdened themselves by the demands of the government, the school management, students and parents, and society as a whole, to counter these tendencies on their own. Your writings have undoubtedly inspired and supported their efforts. Do you have any special message for them?

HG: Yes, these are very difficult times, but the stakes are very high and if we value democracy, and have any hope whatsoever for the future we must continue the struggle for connecting education to democracy, learning to social change, and excellence to equity. The only other option is either cynicism or complicity and no educator deserves that. I also think it is important to recognize that these struggles are going on all over the world, and that we are not alone and shouldn’t be alone in taking on these crucial battles, battles that will determine the fate of global democracy in the twenty-first century.

How do you account for the increasing interest of foreign language/culture educators in your work, despite their traditional little interest in the critical theories of schooling and pedagogy?

Of course, one has to recognize that historically there have been a number of foreignlanguage/culture educators who have addressed the connection between language and critical pedagogy, particularly people
working in TESOL. I think much of that work was produced far ahead of
its time and only now are the conditions emerging that enable educators
to recognize its importance to the current discursive/pedagogical/ educational global context. As it becomes clear that you cannot decouple issues concerning language usage from issues of dialogue, communication, culture, and power, matters of politics and pedagogy become crucial to how one understands pedagogy as a political issue and the politics of language as a deeply pedagogical consideration. I have argued for a number of years that language as both an object and subject of mastery, understanding, and engagement is the site in which people negotiate the most fundamental elements of their identities, the relationship between themselves and others, and their relationship to the larger world. I have also made clear that it has become very difficult in light of this understanding to treat language as simply a technical issue. Clearly, its importance lies in recognizing that it is a moral and political practice deeply connected to both matters of critical agency and the unending struggle to expand and deepen democracy itself. Matters of language and culture are crucial to how one is shaped and what one does as an intellectual. Hence, language is the material and cultural foundation for how educators both address and define the meaning and purpose of pedagogy in the formation and acquisition of particular modes of individual and social agency. This is a question that I have been addressing in my work for over
thirty years but also one that I have taken up as part of a larger
concern with what it means to make the pedagogical more political in its ongoing task of expanding democratic values, relationships, identities,
and public spheres. This is where I think my work seems to resonate in
the current historical conjuncture. Learning a foreign language is a
largely humanistic endeavor rather than an elite or strictly
methodological task and the force of its importance has to be tied to
its relevance as an empowering, emancipatory, and democratic function.
My work understands language as a mode of learning and dissent, one
that is both crucial to configuring and translating the boundaries
between the public and the private, and attending to questions of
politics, power, public consciousness, and civic courage. More than ever
language needs to be revitalized as part of a public pedagogy that
energizes the imagination, expands the autonomy of the individual, and
deepens a viable notion of political agency. Language is part of what
Edward Said called a politics of worldliness inextricably tied up to
matters of history, power, and a culture of questioning and democratic
struggles. Critical pedagogy in my work has always taken the latter
concerns seriously and it just might be that this work is now being
rediscovered and used by foreign language/culture educators. I think
many people are desperate for a discourse that links critique to hope,
knowledge to passion, and pedagogy to justice. I would like to believe
my work offers them some hope in dark times.

Henry Giroux moved to Canada in 2004 and currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in Communication Studies at McMaster University. Although his parents were original from Canada, he was born and lived in the United States until this recent move. Having started his career in education as a high school teacher of history, he achieved a distinguished academic career for which he has recognized internationally. Giroux is a member of various Editorial Boards of relevant national and international journals in the fields of Education and Cultural studies and several of his books received awards by the American Educational Studies Association as the most significant volumes of the respective year of publication. The list of his publications is immense including several books, chapters in many volumes and articles in the leading journals focusing on different areas connected with education and cultural studies, and can be found in his website (www.henryagiroux.com ).

Manuela Guilherme is a senior researcher at the Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra in Portugal, where she coordinates two European projects focusing on Intercultural Education ( www.ces.uc.pt/researchers ; www.ces.uc.pt/icopromo ; www.ces.uc.pt/interact ). She is the author of Critical Citizens for an Intercultural World: Foreign language education as cultural politics (Multilingual Matters, 2002), where she draws on Giroux’s theories, and co-editor of Critical Pedagogy: Political approaches to language and intercultural communication (Multilingual Matters, 2004) which includes Giroux’s chapter entitled “Betraying the intellectual tradition: Public intellectuals and the crisis of youth”.


"This interview was first published in the Language and Intercultural
Communication Journal
, 6:2. We are grateful to its editors for allowing the publication of this interview in this volume."