Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The ground under your feet - Nancy Cardoso on the promised land

At the promised land conference in Bern Nancy Cardoso from Brazil offered a wonderfully evocative paper entitled "The poor will possess the land" reflecting on what promised land might mean from the experience of the landless workers movement.
She argued that the prevailing global economic discourse is literally pulverizing the ground beneath people's feet; instantaneous communication means there is no longer a sense of territory and without that there is no longer a "far away" or "distant" no longer a sense of place "but only images of places" ... "What we are experiencing is not the end of territories, we are experiencing the invasion of the territories by the logic of accumulation and profit."
Speaking about Brazil she said "our history is the history of all forms of systematic violence against the land and the peoples of the land." Then going on to chart some of what the MST, the landless workers movement, does to try to address the issue of land including drawing up a document called "the poor will own the land".
She went on to say that "Exodus 3 is not about the election of one people, one ethnicity, one territory, one state ... it is about a faith experience that is understood and explained from the perspective of the poor ... God chooses a social class! And a project of liberation of the land. this is how the poor will own the land. The biblical narrative is not an ornamental detail, an ancient text. Not utopian at all, the biblical narrative is the memory of the hopeful materialities of the oppressed, their struggles and journeys for the land needed and promised"
I find Nancy Cardoso's use of imagery and language to get across her message very powerful. She always manages both to weave something new into the biblical text and also to tease something very new out of it.
As she left the conference she said she really felt as if her thinking too had been changed and she had much to reflect upon as she returned to her own context.
In some sense finding practical ways of confessing one's faith helps us reclaim the land beneath our feet and not let it be pulverized by the forces of so-called "free markets" carving up the world. A different more solid and earthed world is possible.
The photo of Nancy is by Henri Veldhuis.