Robert Nilssons way out of the idealistic Global North exploitation

Tord Björk | MST,popular movements,Travel | Thursday, February 26th, 2009

In  tradition with the critica-autocritica of the MST movement it can be appropriate to say something about the role of a Nordic or any Western delegation in a third world country. Robert Nilsson have set a good example. In his blog Historias Sem Terra he critically examines his own project to answer the question: How makes MST its contemporary time historical and with this themsleves historical? (Badly translated, the Swedish original text: Hur gör MST sin samtid historisk och därmed sig själva historiska?).

Nilsson ask himself if MST needs a Swedish historian. He wonders if MST ”that uses history as critical reflection, as a mobilizing force, as ideological critique and counter hegemony, as a strategic resource” have to accept the examinating view of  a Swedish historian. He asks himself if he does the same thing as many researchers from the global North has done before him, explore and study people in the South as there were no knowledge and history before his own arrival. It it is just and ethical to build his own career on their daily life and struggle? That he himself is an activist he sees as an unsufficient answer. It is he who goes to Brazil to turn his view on them. They do not have the same opportunity to do the opposite move. They do not either have the chance to avoid his gaze. It may even be so that they need his look he argues, they are forced as a way to get support for their struggle.

His conclusion is then obvious: ”MST certainly do not need any historian from Sweden. Historians from Sweden though sometimes need MST. One have to understand the purpose of the paper correctly. The purpose is not to describe MST, but to learn something about how change is created and by doing this create development in Sweden.”

His goal in studying how MST uses history is focused on how this is creating people that believe and act as if they have the power to change society. ”To make oneself historical means to study and take power over the historical, social and collective circumstances to make changes real.” One can finns a lot of material on MST with many voices and general reflections on his study at

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