Critical Consciousness: Moving from Critical Awareness to Critically Informed Action to Interrupt, Contest, and Dismantle Racism

  • L. Wesley Harris (Iowa State University)
  • Jessica Adams (Iowa State University)
  • Romina Holder (Iowa State University)
  • Nicole Russell (Iowa State University)


Paulo Freire (1970) popularized the concept of critical consciousness (also called conscientisation or conscientiza). In his conceptualization of critical consciousness, Freire asserted awareness and action were needed in order to gain liberation from the oppressors. Scholars have built upon Freire’s original conceptualization and broken critical consciousness into three overlapping states and levels of awareness and action. They are 1) critical reflection, 2) critical motivation/efficacy, and 3) critical action. These stages follow the development of critical consciousness from early stages where individuals come to recognize, acknowledge, and understand their social identities; make meaning of them through the lens of power, privilege, and oppression; and connect their (and others’) individual and group identities with systemic and institutionalized inequities. Most research concludes with action as a necessary response to the previous steps in the development of critical consciousness. When individuals take their new-found place, as agents of change, they feel obligated to act to change systems of oppression. In this interactive session, participants will be able to define—and will develop a basic understanding of critical consciousness. Participants will also be able to identify several ways they support and/or confront racism.



Published on
28 Feb 2019