Menus Subscribe Search

The Exploitation of Muggles in Harry Potter’s World

• July 08, 2011 • 3:00 AM

In this edition of The Cocktail Napkin, we look academics’ fixation on the social and economic problems in the world of Harry Potter, and how music festivals impact the psychological and social well-being.

Every so often, we find a study that makes us question our place in the cosmos. Zakir Husain’s paper in the Journal of Creative Communications, “Wizards, Muggles and Economic Exploitation Dependency Relations in the World of Harry Potter,” is one such treatise.

In it, the Delhi University economist posits that “the Wizarding world remains an epitome of the colonial society prevailing in the pre-World War I era, tightly bound within through blood, lineage and money, and sustained through exploitation of the peripheral non-magical world. Muggle lovers like Mr. Weasley may clash with Muggle-baiters like Lucius Malfoy. But both depend for their survival on exploitation of Muggles, both recognize the importance of blood and lineage.” (Fun parenting tip: Try that one on your 6-year-old during the next long car ride.)

Husain also notes, “Giants and Werewolves too are treated badly and viewed suspiciously,” he writes, clearly working himself into a lather at this point. “All these are, of course, conveniently ignored by Wizards.”

And if that doesn’t have you reaching for your much-underlined copy of The Wretched of the Earth, try this: “The portrayal of social and economic problems has led to parallels being drawn between Rowling and Charles Dickens.” Absurd! you cry, and you’d be right. Because Dickens, Husain notes, was “tortured by the social conditions existing in contemporary London,” whereas J.K. Rowling just wanted to sell a bunch of popular books. Sorry, I meant to say: whereas Rowling “approached these social and economic issues cluttered with middle-class prejudices, failing to extricate herself from a neo-colonial ideology.”

July-August 2011 Next issue: How the Imperial Star Destroyer in Star Wars is basically just a big Walmart.

Introducing a New Definition of a “Very Short Note”
Check out the recent paper by Michael Emmett Brady of California State University, Dominguez Hills, called “A Very Short Note Covering the Five Easy Steps Needed to Show that Keynes’s Analysis in Footnote 2 on Page 55 of the General Theory is Correct with a Minor Exception that Was Correctly Analyzed by Keynes in Footnote 1 on p. 283 of the General Theory in Chapter 20.”

Glad we cleared that up.

How to Speak Academic
Jan Packer and Julie Ballantyne of the University of Queensland in Australia trained their research goggles on the murky world of ‘paloozas for their paper in Psychology of Music called, “The impact of music festival attendance on young people’s psychological and social well-being.” As you might expect, the interviews with music fans included some bombshells. But consider how much better the insights sound when rendered in the studied elegance of the “academic.” Some excerpts:

Academic: “Although most participants considered the music facet to be fundamental to the experience as a whole, they also spoke of an ‘atmosphere’ or an ‘experience’ in which music was only one ingredient, a part of the whole.”

Translation from festivalgoer: “It’s a festival. It’s not just a music performance. It’s the food and the atmosphere and all that stuff.”

Academic: “For some, the festival provided an opportunity and a safe environment to try out new aspects of their ‘Identity’, and thus experience ‘Personal Growth.’”

Festivalgoer: “I wore clothes that I wouldn’t ordinarily wear. I ate food that I wouldn’t ordinarily eat, mostly. So I went camping, which I wouldn’t just go camping if it wasn’t for a festival, so pretty much everything was done differently.”

Academic: “The festival experience appeared to amplify the natural capacity of music to evoke emotional experiences and influence mood. … It thus contributed to the development of ‘Emotional Field,’ and a sense of subjective well-being or ‘Happiness.’”

Festivalgoer: “There’s like a longtime high. I stay on a high, and there’s, like, a come-down period, and I need to go to another festival.”

Now be honest: Who would you rather rock out with?

The Cocktail Napkin appears at the back page of each issue of Miller-McCune magazine, highlighting current research that merits a raised eyebrow or a painful grin.

Sign up for the free Miller-McCune.com e-newsletter.

“Like” Miller-McCune on Facebook.

Follow Miller-McCune on Twitter.

Add Miller-McCune.com news to your site.

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Matt Palmquist
A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Matt Palmquist, a former Miller-McCune staff writer, began his career at daily newspapers such as The Oregonian and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In 2001, he became a staff writer at the SF Weekly in San Francisco, where he won several local and national awards. He also wrote a humorous current affairs column called "The Apologist," which he continued upon leaving the Weekly and beginning a freelance career.

More From Matt Palmquist

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 2 • 4:00 PM

Professors’ Pet Peeves

Ten things to avoid in your classrooms this year.


September 2 • 2:00 PM

Music Lessons Enhance Brain Function in Disadvantaged Kids

Children from poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles who took regular music lessons for two years were able to distinguish similar speech sounds faster than their peers.


September 2 • 12:00 PM

California Passes a Bill to Protect Workers in the Rapidly Growing Temp Staffing Industry

The bill will hold companies accountable for labor abuses by temp agencies and subcontractors they use.


September 2 • 10:00 AM

SWAT Pranks and SWAT Mistakes

The proliferation of risky police raids over the decades.


September 2 • 9:12 AM

Conference Call: The Graphic Novel


September 2 • 8:00 AM

Why We’re Not Holding State Legislators Accountable

The way we vote means that the political fortunes of state legislators hinge on events outside of their state and their control.


September 2 • 7:00 AM

When Men Who Abstain From Premarital Sex Get Married

Young men who take abstinence pledges have trouble adjusting to sexual norms when they become husbands.


September 2 • 6:00 AM

The Rise of Biblical Counseling

For millions of Christians, biblical counselors have replaced psychologists. Some think it’s time to reverse course.


September 2 • 5:12 AM

No Innovation Without Migration

People bring their ideas with them when they move from place to place.


September 2 • 4:00 AM

Why Middle School Doesn’t Have to Suck

Some people suspect the troubles of middle school are a matter of age. Middle schoolers, they think, are simply too moody, pimply, and cliquish to be easily educable. But these five studies might convince you otherwise.


September 2 • 3:13 AM

Coming Soon: When Robots Lie


September 2 • 2:00 AM

Introducing the New Issue of ‘Pacific Standard’

The science of self-control, the rise of biblical counseling, why middle school doesn’t have to suck, and more in our September/October 2014 print issue.


September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

When Men Who Abstain From Premarital Sex Get Married

Young men who take abstinence pledges have trouble adjusting to sexual norms when they become husbands.

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

The Big One

One third of the United States federal budget for fighting wildfires goes toward one percent of such fires. September/October 2014 big-one-fires-final

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.