Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cultural Generalizations: Easy, Tyler!

The well-known economist, Tyler Cowen is a regular blogger. I read him. I found one of his recent blogs a tad too, well, culturally marked. I reckon, stereotypes can be seen as a learning tool but, more often than not, they manage to blur cultural understanding.

Here is a snippet of his post:

'A group of Swiss businessmen will hear first Pascal Lamy on economic globalization and then me [ie Tyler Cowen] on cultural globalization.

I must keep in mind the fundamental principles of speaking to the Swiss. Unlike virtually all American audiences, the listeners do not expect to be entertained. Efforts to entertain will insult some of them. I need not reach my main point until the end of the talk. Taxonomy for its own sake is not detested, but PowerPoint is viewed with suspicion.'

This is why this post bothered me. Cowen was in Switzerland to talk about 'cultural globalization' yet the post oozes cultural stereotypes. The tone struck me as a tad colonial.

The Swiss don't enjoy humorous remarks, says Cowen, but wait, since he is writing predominantly for an American blogger audience, 'Swiss' jokes may be used. My question is, at whose expense?

After all, as he notes in his post, American audiences like to be entertained.


Unknown said...

here is my PowerPoint presentation showing that I am the most qualified shepherd for your herd. oh, i hope you guys support Mac products.

B.R. said...

Stereotypes might shed some info in the beginning but they should not be promulgated too generously.
Good one, btw, re: the shepherds. I'd also like my shepherd to be mac-literate.

Anonymous said...

Things to go:
Stereotyoes ike:
German do this
Americans do that
Italian are this
Albanians are that
and on and on and on.

Tabula rasa is better. Leave old judgments at the door. In the words immortalized by that bard, Mary J. Blige, "leave the hateration at the doo'."

B.R. said...

We all resort to stereotypes, of course. And this is yet another stereotype, I know.... But stereotypes are a gateway necessity. However, information and education are what sheds them.