Harry Potter conference in Ireland cosponsored by sociology department

The University of Limerick in Ireland this week hosted a Harry Potter conference. Interestingly, this conference was co-sponsored by the sociology department.

An International Academic Conference exploring the cultural influence of the Harry Potter books and films entitled ‘Magic is Might 2012’ took place at the University of Limerick this week.

The two-day event, which concluded on Wednesday, featured 20 presentations on papers showcasing international research on multiple aspects of the impact of the Harry Potter series from literature, to education, law to digital media. Speakers from over 10 countries presented their work on Harry Potter and the conference also included the live trial of controversial character Dolores Umbridge in the University of Limerick Moot Court exploring her crimes and debating the severity of her punishment…

“The characters’ relationships, the political and social systems, and cultural commentaries woven into Rowling’s writing are just some examples of what makes the Harry Potter series an exciting framework for academic discourse in a number of areas.  We will encourage intensive and lively discussion and debate around the papers. We are delighted that Wizards, muggles, established academics and postgraduate students have submitted papers, and we will put the collection of papers together into an e-book after the conference. We are also very excited to host the first Harry Potter conference to take place in Ireland” she continued…

The Conference was hosted by UL’s Department of Sociology in collaboration with UL’s Interaction Design Centre and the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems.

I’m sure this is not the first or last Harry Potter conference. Yet, I wonder why the sociology department was behind this. I know I don’t read or see all that sociologists publish but I haven’t yet run across any sociological works on Harry Potter. A few ideas why a sociology department might sponsor such a conference:

1. Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon and this is what sociologists study.

2. The sociology department liked the idea of being tied to an international phenomenon. In other words, this is good marketing.

3. The series itself has a number of sociological themes (though the same could be said about other media).

I’d be interested to hear more about the consequences for the sociology department…

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