One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

Respecting other cultures when mailing packages to the troops

on September 23, 2013

Being the loving and over cautioned military wife that I am, I researched what was prohibited when mailing a care package to an APO address to my husband. According to the USPS website, the items that are prohibited include: obscene materials, nude or semi-nude porno graphic material, bulk religious material that is contrary to Islamic faith, and pork or pork byproduct. The last two caught my interest and the first thing that came to my mind was food taboos of Islamic faith.

Before deploying, troops are briefed on the cultures they will be interacting with in the location they are deploying to. This usually includes the customs, traditions, relations between individuals, religious institutions, etc.  As a way of to control the amount of disruption upon another culture as best as they can. Also the sheer presents of troops is a disruption upon culture. At least there is an effort to understand the ways of another culture.

As stated on the USPS site, it is prohibited to send pork products or byproducts. Consuming pork product is prohibited according to Muslim Law. Like Jewish pork taboo, the same is in Islamic faith – the animal must it must have split hooves and chew its cud and it cannot have one and not the other, like the pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud.

Since on of the many things troops do in another country is to befriend the locals, accepting that there is a taboo of food is one way to build that trust. I found it interesting that the postal service does provide that information as a way of helping the troops establish those relations by not allowing individuals from the U.S. to send those products over to those who are interacting with the culture.

I am assuming that the no religious material in bulk that is contrary to the Islam faith is to not appear as if the troops are missionaries.  It does say that a religious item may be shipped to a single individual. Trying to avoid the feelings and failings of colonialism. But it is nice to see the efforts to not cause too much disruption within another culture.  As we have seen in the past of the devastating results that continue to still have effects upon certain cultures.

Once can see from reading this on the USPS that is geared towards the troops that are deployed in the Middle-East and Northern Africa. It hold true that these areas have been the areas that the US has been deployed to in the past decade and still are being deployed to these areas. I am sure that those who are deployed in other areas of the world, there are also restrictions to what can or cannot be sent due to the culture they are interacting with.

There is a tendency to think that the presence of military troops destroy cultures and change the people they interact with. This is true that the presence of troops will result in changes to a culture, it is inevitable with any group of individuals who come into contact and interact with a culture outside their own. But at least there is an effort to minimize the damage that could be done if there was a lack of cultural education to troops.


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