As some of you already know yesterday I wrote a post complaining about book publishers’ habit of using images of poor Africans (and especially children) on the cover of books on global poverty and underdevelopment. In my post I used the example of William Easterly’s new book, The Tyranny of Experts, which has the image of an African child, face partially obscured by text and in a torn t-shirt, on the cover. The post got a fair amount of attention on twitter and last night William Easterly emailed me about it (see email below). As suggested by Easterly in the email, let’s keep the conversation going in the comments section and elsewhere.
Dear Mr. Opalo, thanks for your comment in your blog. I understand your concern about exploiting images of African children, I have voiced the same criticisms myself. The book itself is a strong protest of paternalistic and racist tendencies in development and a demand to recognize poor people’s rights, including their right to be treated with dignity and respect. I would be happy to send you an advance copy.
The exploitative images usually fall into two categories: either (1) a smiling adorable child meant to imply gratitude for the aid donors as paternalistic saviors, or (2) a child with extremely degraded conditions such a swollen belly or flies mean to evoke pity. I respectfully submit that my book cover is in neither category.
I would be happy to continue the dialogue further, and you are welcome to post this response on your blog.
Best wishes, Bill Easterly
Many thanks to William Easterly for responding to the post. It was nice to hear from such a legend in the field of development economics.