Saturday, October 18, 2008

I write letters

Prof. ******

I'm currently taking the cultural anthropology telecourse, ANT 221. While reading the chapter on economics, I noted this factoid on page 195, regarding Gerber babyfood being sold in Africa. "Only later did company officials learn that, in Africa, businesses routinely put pictures of the products themselves on the outside label, since many people cannot read." My husband and I thought that that sounded vaguely familiar, so I did some digging. This is what I found.

Long story short, this urban legend has been around since the 50's, though that time it was told from New Guinea, and the natives were seeing people USE babyfood, rather than having it marketed to them. But all the hallmarks are there - ignorant/illiterate foreigners who are too dumb to understand product labels. Similar stories have been told about Chinese individuals who purchased shortening thinking that it was fried chicken, because that's what the label on the can was of.

For a textbook that does such a wonderful job of highlighting ethnocentrism and bias, I was saddened and upset to find this example used in this textbook. There is no reason to believe that this incident actually occurred, and its plausability rests entirely upon our presumed superiority to other cultures. 

So I'm looking for guidance from you in how to most effectively address this, as I'm certain that neither the publisher nor the authors wish this to be perpetuated in the future. Thank you!