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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.

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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.

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