Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, a widely circulated essay in >McSweeney’s on “Decorative Gourd Season,” pumpkins in aspirational lifestyle magazines, and the reality television show Punkin Chunkin provide entry points into whiteness–pumpkin connections. Such analysis illuminates how class, gender, place, and especially race are employed in popular media and marketing of food and flavor; it suggests complicated interplay among food, leisure, labor, nostalgia, and race. Pumpkins in popular culture also reveal contemporary racial and class coding of rural versus urban places. Accumulation of critical, relational, and contextual analyses, including things seemingly as innocuous as pumpkins, points the way to a food studies of humanities and geography. When considered vis-à-vis violence and activism that incorporated pumpkins, these analyses point toward the perils of equating pumpkins and whiteness.Come. Off. It.
It's more of the trendy, terminally silly stuff crowding out real education. I've been pointing this out for nearly thirty years (long before anybody heard of the Internet, let alone web logs) and it's gratifying to have Ms Wente bringing the smack.
How does this stuff get published? Because critical thinking has gone out the door. The standard methods of research and inquiry do not apply. In fact, they are widely thought to be sexist and racist, because they’re rooted in white male ways of thinking. Science that built on the foundations of masculine rationality and abstract logic can’t possibly reflect the experience of women and minorities. Therefore, feelings, anecdotes and “lived experience” vastly outweigh what used to be known as “objective truth.”Yeah, and that generates all sorts of affirmative action asterisks. The rot has been a long time in coming, and the recognition of it has been there for a long time. It may not be given to me to finish the task of reclaiming higher education, and yet there are others still in the fight.
Why am I so irate about this? One reason is that such work is a discredit to genuine academics and the pursuit of knowledge. Another is that race, gender and oppression studies have metastasized far beyond their little enclaves and spread to many other disciplines, including much of the humanities and parts of the sciences. Some universities have launched feminist biology programs because regular biology is too sexist. No one seems to mind that kids are squandering their time and our resources (to say nothing of their parents’ resources) on rubbish. I believe the damage to the public image of our universities is not inconsiderable – something their administrations might want to ponder in these straitened times.
The worst part is that these bad ideas metastasize into the wider world, into politics and public policy and ordinary life. Today we think the only way to fight racism and sexism is to identify everyone by race and sex – and that the only way to respond to people who claim victim status is to grant them special privileges.