About Social Imagination

Maxine Greene, when writing about the social imagination,  often situates us in the present, reminding us of the immediate horrors of our world - local and global. In a way only she can, she forces us to confront that which we so often turn from but in the end cannot avoid - the "lengthening shadow of war along with chilling warnings..."

And in these discussions, she uses as her references works of art that address such pressing and troubling issues. She offers for us countless examples of works of art by all manner of artists,  intent on bringing alive to us the importance and power of the arts in awakening the potential of the social imagination. In her article "The Arts and the Search for Social Justice" she proposes "if we release our imaginations, if we allow ourselves to move out to such works, we may well find them becoming part of our lived reality. We may wonder; we may ache; we may want to refuse. But we may also ask: "What next"? or "What can be done?" or "How does it affect what I make of my life?" She reminds us of the difference between "knowing" and "knowing about", and how aesthetic encounters with works of art might allow us entry into the kind of "knowing" that leads to social action.

"Seeing", as she so clearly does, the "prison wall" of those who "issue orders and preside over suffering without feeling a relation with the one they torture", she is moved to "resist walls and barricades, to discover openings  somehow, to bring in sight the visions of justice and freedom that preoccupy me - and to do it without impinging on the dignity, the integrity of art forms we are working - for their sake and our sakes - to bring alive, to make present, to shine in the world."  -Maxine Greene The Arts and the Search for Social Justice (pdf)

"We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society, on the streets where we live, in our schools. As I write of social imagination, I am reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s declaration that “it is on the day that we can conceive of a different state of affairs that a new light falls on our troubles and our suffering and that we decide that these are unbearable”

     - Maxine Greene: Releasing the Imagination. (p. 5).

Visions of possibility

"Our very realization that the individual does not precede community may summon up images of relation, of the networks of concern in which we teachers still do our work and, as we do so, create and recreate ourselves. More and more of us, for all our postmodern preoccupations, are aware of how necessary it is to keep such visions of possibility before our eyes in the
face of rampant carelessness and alteration and fragmentation.

If is out of this kind of thinking, I still believe, that the ground of a critical community can be opened in our teaching and in our schools. It is out of such thinking that public spaces may be regained. The challenge is to make the ground palpable and visible to our students, to make possible the interplay of multiple plurality of consciousnesses --- and their recalcitrances and their resistances, along with their affirmations, their "songs of love." And, yes, it is to work for responsiveness to principles of equity, principles of equality, and principles of freedom, which still can be named within contexts of caring and concern. The principles and the contexts have to be chosen by living human beings against their own life-worlds and in the light of their lives with others, by persons able to call, to say, to sing, and -- using their imaginations, tapping their courage -- to transform."

     - Maxine Greene, Releasing the Imaginationpp. 197-198.

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