The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach
The Reciprocal Maieutic Approach (RMA) is a dialectic method of inquiry and “popular self-analysis” for empowerment of communities and individuals and it can be defined as a “process of collective exploration that takes, as a departure point, the experience and the intuition of individuals” (Dolci, 1996). The RMA was developed by Danilo Dolci from the Socratic concept of Maieutic. It derives from the ancient Greek “μαιευτικός”, pertaining to midwifery: every act of educating is like giving birth to the full potential of the learner who wants to learn, as a mother wants her child to emerge from her. Socratic maieutics compares the philosopher as a “midwife of knowledge” that does not fill the mind of the student with information but helps him to reach the light, by using dialogue as a dialectic instrument to reach out the truth. What differentiates both concepts is the fact that Socrates’ Maieutics was unidirectional, while for Danilo Dolci the concept of knowledge comes from experience and a reciprocal relationship is necessary. As the name says, RMA is a “reciprocal” process between at least two persons and it is normally done inside a group, with one person that asking questions and others giving answers. It is the reciprocal maieutic communication that brings out people’s knowledge, with all participants learning from each other. Beginning from this and inspired by other great thinkers and people in action (Gandhi, 1999; Freire, 2002; Capitini, 1958; Chomsky, 1998; Moren, 2001; Galtung, 1957), Dolci developed the RMA, that he started to use in the villages of Partinico and Trappeto, fighting for poor people’s rights and against mafia. The RMA is strongly connected with the concept of “nonviolent communication” (Rosemberg, 2001) and can be also described as a group communication strategy (Habermas, 1986) that enables all the elements in the group to give their ideas and opinions, contributing through this to the development of a final common idea in order to make a change in the individual and collective social / political / economic / educational spheres (Mangano, 1992).
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