The unbearable whiteness of pumpkins: more po-mo lunacy


In the attempts of the Regressive Left to make everything part of identity politics, and to instill in all The Privileged an unspeakable sense of guilt, no object or behavior is off limits. And so, as Halloween approaches, we have a new paper in the journal GeoHumanities called: “The perilous whiteness of pumpkins” (reference and free download below). And it’s not about pumpkins bred for a lack of coloration, either: it’s how this seasonal gourd bears a horrible burden of racism and oppression. This is right up there with feminine glaciology and racist Pilates as one of the craziest po-mo papers I’ve seen.

The authors are Lisa J. Powell, a postdoc in the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and Elizabeth S. D. Englehardt, the John Shelton Reed Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies in the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The paper, as usual with these screeds, is so abysmally written that it’s hard to make out its thesis, but I’ll try.

It begins by locating the pumpkin as a message of racist oppression, and to do that it uses the “Pumpkin riots” in Keene, New Hampshire in the fall of 2014, in which a largely white group of college students became unruly at a pumpkin festival, setting cars on fire, breaking windows, and running amok. Eighty of them were arrested and 170 disciplined by their college. This was about the time that the Ferguson riots took place in Missouri, and many saw the police as acting more leniently toward the white New Hampshire protestors than toward the black Missouri protestors (see the story here). Some of the Missouri demonstrators wrote slogans on pumpkins and took them to the St. Louis County Justice Center, and that’s all that Powell and Engelhardt need to write a paper showing that pumpkins are freighted with racial significance. The rest they just make up. (By the way, everybody’s forgotten about the pumpkins here except for these po-mo authors.)

The authors then take up three pumpkin-related issues (with ancillary points as well) to locate pumpkins in the sphere of oppressive whiteness. Here’s the word salad introducing their paper:

To explore race, culture, and food, we turn to three recent moments in the narrative of pumpkins’ whiteness: the pumpkin spice flavor industry and rhetoric connecting particular middle- or upper-class female whiteness to pumpkin spice lattes; the Internet phenomenon, “Decorative Gourd Season,” and lifestyle magazines’ fall embrace of class-aspirational pumpkins; and the working-class reality television Punkin Chunkin contests. Along the way, we briefly examine agricultural pumpkin production and pumpkins in U.S. history. Finally, we return to the Pumpkin Riot to consider how a deeper understanding of urban–rural divides in current U.S. cultures reveals what is so perilous about the equation of pumpkins and whiteness. Our aim is to make more legible the consequences of ruptures among food, race, class, gender, and place.

Their main points are in bold. I’ve put quotes from the paper in quotation marks.

  • The racism of pumpkin production. This part is a real stretch, but there’s some po-mo gems here as they desperately find ways to make pumpkins symbols of White Privilege:

“The relationship between the pumpkin’s position in contemporary U.S. culture and its role as an edible crop is complicated. Nevertheless, pumpkins are real, material food plants in addition to being cultural symbols.”

Amazing insight! And there’s this:

“Although people in the U.S. pumpkin-picking and pumpkin-processing labor force should not be lumped into one homogeneous group, labor guidelines and commentary on labor issues indicate many are migrant workers and many are of Mexican descent. In 2007, for example, 417 pumpkin growers in Colorado despaired after a state “crackdown” on undocumented immigrants disrupted their fall pumpkin harvest labor force (Rodriguez 2007). Labor controversies in other states, including Texas and North Carolina, suggest seasonal laborers primarily of Mexican descent pick their pumpkin fields (Lutton and Einhorn 2006; Henneberger 2008; Shaffer 2013).”

This issue isn’t brought up again, and they don’t present any real data. But certainly, like many mass-harvested crops, pumpkin-pickers must be heavily Latino. But this doesn’t make the squashes symbols of racism per se; it merely gives the authors an excuse to write their paper.

  • The racism of pumpkin spice lattes. I have never had a pumpkin spice latte (the authors abbreviate this as PSL), as I despise flavored coffees and that one sounds particularly noxious. But Powell and Englehardt strive mightily to make PSLs symbols of the privileged and affluent, ergo of whiteness. To do that they link them with Ugg boots because Buzzfeed once published an article showing PSLs, a candle, and Ugg boots as “signifiers of basicness,” which the authors take as an index of female consumerism seen as a sign of white superiority. (Oy!):

“Starbucks introduced the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) in 2003. The company claimed sales of more than 200 million by the start of PSL’s tenth season, noting that fans had established it as “the company’s most popular seasonal beverage of all time” (Starbucks 2013). Although the PSL was celebrated as a company and cultural success in 2013, one year later it was firmly hitched to discussions of white female identity and consumerism as both a dismissive, racially coded slur and a rallying counterpoint.

PSLs as a racially coded slur! Now I’m glad I never bought one.

“. . . But why did PSLs become the symbol of basic white girlness? Why did they stick even more than UGGs, yoga pants, or scented candles? The context and composition of the PSL might be revealing. Prior to fall 2015, PSLs did not actually contain pumpkin. Luxury items, they cost far more than plain cups of coffee, yet do not provide tangible extra nutrition other than that in milk. Actual pumpkins, in contrast, contribute vitamin A, beta-carotenoids, fiber, and potassium (Savoie and Hedstrom 2008).”

“. . . Extending Simon’s frame to pumpkins and race, the excesses of calories, profligate sweetness, whipped cream, and heady aroma position them solidly as luxury items. PSLs are quintessential “postneed” uses of pumpkin. We no longer need to consume pumpkins for caloric subsistence. Instead, we demonstrate consumer savvy and gleeful excess by choosing the particular comforts of status-demonstrating Starbucks PSLs. In fact, had they significant actual pumpkin, had they strong associations with healthy vegetables or vitamins, PSLs would fail these consumers.”

“. . . The status symbol is not any over-the-top caloric, sweet drink, nor does it come from just any place. Starbucks PSLs are products of coffee shop culture, with its gendered and racial codes.”

Having established that drinking a PSL in public is equivalent to wearing Klan robes, the authors move on to magazines that feature “decorative gourd season.”

  • Touting decorative gourds and pumpkin carving is also a sign of white privilege and racial bias.

“Gone are days when a kitchen knife making triangle eyes, nose, and an uneven grin sufficed for pumpkin carving. Stencils, paint, specialty gourds, and dedicated battery-powered or leather-encased artisanal carving tools combine with multilevel displays, electric lights, or expensive candles to mark the season. Even when people are absent, labor (of self or paid others), leisure, and aspiration are implied. We move from a pumpkin-spiced world where race was (over)stated to one of allusions, implications, elisions, and obfuscations of race, class, and imagined rurality.”

“. . . Even more than PSLs, pumpkins of decorative gourd season and lifestyle magazines signal privilege—class privilege certainly, but also white privilege—encompassing power, lack of worry, and leisure. Like lattes’ power, this privilege needs work.”

Yeah, work on the part of the authors, desperate to have Their Own Original Thesis, a requirement for joining the Regressive Club. Finally, there’s this:

  • Pumpkins were the subject of a television show, Punkin Chunkin, that identified the destruction of pumpkins with fun “whiteness”. I’ve never seen this show, but apparently it involves a bunch of guys who use elaborate methods to destroy pumpkins. Here’s a video clip:

What’s the significance of this? Well, pumpkins. Here we see Powell and Engelhardt becoming theologians: simply making up stuff to buttress their preconceived thesis. (This confirmation bias is characteristic of the po-mo papers I’ve highlighted about glaciology, yoga, and similar attempts at mass guilt-tripping.)

“When rural reality shows feature working-class residents in the South, itself an othered place symbolizing in shorthand fraught race relations, viewers can be twice-distant voyeurs. Portraying the behavior of characters in such shows as not only atypical, but also located in dark and scary versions of rural landscapes, reality television can trade on shame and fascination (Stewart 1996; D. Bell 1997; McPherson 2003; Romine 2014). But the nonthreatening, idealized, and normalized settings of Punkin Chunkin and its pumpkins position both viewers and competitors as safe, fun, and, as with PSLs and decorative gourds, predominantly white.”

That paragraph has every trope of postmodernism, including “othering”. And how they manage to make these show into a celebration of whiteness is beyond me. Seriously, the authors have drunk the Kool-Aid here, for one could easily, just based on the clip above, make the opposite case.

So what’s the conclusion here? What have the authors accomplished? Or, as H. L. Mencken said about Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class (one of the funniest and greatest book reviews of all time), “What are the sweating professors trying to say?”

You got me. The whole point, it seems, is to associate pumpkins with whiteness. And even if you buy that tortured thesis, what are you supposed to do? Stop drinking PSLs? Stop decorating pumpkins at Halloween? The authors don’t tell us, for they are content to associate a squash with race privilege and move on to their next paper. The ending:

“Whiteness associated with pumpkins marks who resides where on the spectrum of U.S. social power. The entrenchment of such associations in daily lives and the spaces and places in which they are lived create the environments of Keene versus Ferguson—specific perils of today’s pumpkins. 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, that helps make visible the racial, gendered, classed, and placed politics of contemporary life in the United States.

When Ferguson activists wrote RACISM and WHITE PRIVILEGE on pumpkins, they destabilized the whiteness of pumpkins and the comfort and normalization accompanying it. Bringing pumpkins into the demonstration, and then smashing them on the ground to show outrage at injustice (as opposed to the “holiday mischief” generally ascribed to pumpkin smashing), activists brought pumpkins into a space where racial inequality and instability could not be ignored or glossed over. Their actions made the white privilege encoded in pumpkins explicit and challenged its future.”


The unbearable heaviness of privilege


Powell, L. J. and E. S. D. Engelhardt. 2016. The perilous whiteness of pumpkins. GeoHumanities 1:414-432. DOI: 10.1080/2373566X.2015.1099421


  1. Brian
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Uh-oh. A variety of pumpkin favored for pie, for flavor and low moisture content is not orange, but a sort of cream color. The pies tend to be a bit paler than the traditional, but very tasty. Another othering of pumkins of color?

  2. Cindy
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    “”Having established that drinking a PSL in public is equivalent to wearing Klan robes, the authors move on to magazines that feature “decorative gourd season.”””

    I LOL’ed.

    Good one.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Um, what would be a drink that is not pointedly reinforcing the ‘ol gendered and racial codes? Coffee? Doesn’t Starbucks sell coffee anymore?

    • Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Hey, coffee is not native to white Europe or the US, it is a cultural appropriation of a traditional Arab drink…

      • Gareth
        Posted October 2, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Though roasting the beans first is a Yemeni idea.

  4. Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    What in the hell did I just finish reading?

  5. GBJames
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I cringe at the unbearable whiteness of all lattes. I insist on drinking my coffee black. That probably means that I’m engaged in cultural appropriation.

    • Dean Reimer
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      You might as well be wearing blackface, man! There’s no way that I, as a white man, can relate to the experience of a black coffee.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 3, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

        Or a white coffee either, I think.

        To quote the late DNA:

        “It’s a little like being drunk.”
        “What’s so bad about being drunk?”
        “Ask a glass of water.”


  6. Kevin
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I hate everything pumpkin. Disgusting. But zucchinis I love. 😉

    • jeffery
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      At our “hippie-farm” years ago, we used to plant extra hills of zukes, saving the biggest ones for our annual “Zucchini Bash” party: we would use them for baseball bats, blow them up, run over them with trucks (I have long since quit drinking), etc.- the pigs and chickens got the “leavings” the morning after..

      • Cindy
        Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Zucchinis represent teh patriarchy and rape culture!


      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Sounds exciting! Does the farm still exist?

  7. bric
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    For Uk readers who don’t understand any of the above, here’s Nadia Hussain’s Pumpkin Cake

    You will notice that Nadia is not very white, but her cake is. Extraordinary

    • Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      A clear case of internalized racism.

  8. Flemur
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    If one examines Pumpkonian Existentialism, one is faced with a choice: either accept modern narrative or conclude that the purpose of the pumpkin is social comment. If Pumpkonian Existentialism holds, we have to choose between postcultural materialism and textual theory: Lacan uses the term ‘modern pumpkin’ to denote the fatal flaw, and thus the failure, of prepumpkin society.

    However, Derrida promotes the use of posttextual pumpkinism to attack and analyze class. Sontag’s analysis of the prepumpkinist paradigm of narrative holds that culture is part of the stasis of pumpkins, given that truth is distinct from pumpkins.

    It could be said that several narratives concerning the futility, and hence the collapse, of postdeconstructive pumpkins may be found. Textual Marxism requires that the works of Tarantino are not postpumpkin, and Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt is a person of pumpkin-color.

    • Christopher
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      She makes me ashamed to be a ginger.

    • Historian
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Dr. Engelhardt’s contribution to the history profession and American Studies is inestimable. Her merging of Southern food studies with gender studies has opened up a new area of historical research that has been neglected for decades due to the hegemony of male, white professors. I can only hope that her pioneer research will induce many young women to join these professions because food studies can explain so much as to why food has been a tool of oppression by white males. And as these women gain power in the American Studies and history professions, the study of pumpkin whiteness will finally wipe out political history as a worthy field of study, which is nothing more than a validation of male domination.

      I hope she is a member of the American Historical Association. If so, I urge that she run for its presidency because certainly she will win as her extraordinary scholarship will shame the white, male sexist and racist members to vote for her.

      • Cindy
        Posted October 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink


      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        I see you are ready to write or review for the GeoHumanities journal :-).

    • Sastra
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Excellent, and enlightening.

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    A year or so ago, I had carved a white pumpkin and found that the rind was very hard and woody. If that is consistently so, then a good reason for favoring them in the celebrated sport of punkin’ chunkin’ is that they are less likely to break apart on launching.
    Alternatively, those who chunk pumpkins are a bunch of racially privileged upper class members of the white patriarchy.

    • eric
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      AIUI, most US pumpkins are selectively bred for carving. They are essentially inedible, with no middle ‘meat’ to speak of, just stringy seed stuff. AIUI, to get a truly good-tasting pumpkin you have to find a heritage/historical variety. Do not judge the noble pumpkin based on the thing you put outside your door once a year. 🙂

      On the punkin chunkin: I used to go before it was on tv (when it was cool, sniff sniff). At that time it was very rednecky awesome. Where else can you see a dozen trebuchets and catapults firing in a distance competition? They even had a kids category, for teen engineer-wannabes. But the air cannon and centrifugal competitors do take it to extremes: evidently, most of the regular competitive teams have secret pumpkin patches where they breed pumpkins especially for hardness, just to get an edge on the competition.

  10. Zado
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “…this privilege needs work.”

    That’s what Lenin thought about the czars, and we all know how that turned out.

  11. Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    If academic careers are “publish or perish” affairs, some careers just deserve the latter.

  12. Christopher
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Welcome to the Left-ocalypse…

    Well, since the pumpkins were culturally appropriated from the Native Americans, you’re all racist thieves anyway. and that jack o’lanterns are traditionally Irish carved turnips, I’m calling out all people who’ve ever carved a pumpkin as doubly racist thieves. I can say this because I am both Irish and Cherokee, and you can’t say anything because, as we’ve all learned, you’re only allowed to have an opinion, think, write, or talk from a particular point of view if you are of that particular race or gender, so give my ancestors back their ‘neeps, you racist bastards!

    (all of this was said with the voice of Frankie Boyle in my head, appropriately enough)

    • bric
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      In case readers are not familiar with Frankie’s voice and style, here are some very NSFW samples

      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink


      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        Crikey, nobody could get away with that stuff on American television!

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted October 2, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          If there was stuff like this on US television, perhaps there wouldn’t be so many people taking themselves so seriously they can come up with things like this dreadful paper. Just imagine the scene of these two women discussing their ideas for this paper. In Britain it would be a skit on a comedy show and the discussion would be full of increasing sexual innuendo. It would end with the two women admitting the whole thing was an excuse to get near one another and they would throw all their research in the air and make love in the middle of all the discarded books and papers.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted October 3, 2016 at 5:16 am | Permalink

            I’d pay good money to watch that!

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted October 3, 2016 at 5:17 am | Permalink

            PS I am not Frankie Boyle.

    • jeffery
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      – and don’t forget the potatoes, you privileged, racist appropriationists! You’ve taken this small, unassuming, “diversely” colored Andean tuber and bred it into a bloated, WHITE version of its former native glory, reflecting your bloated white culture!

      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        perfect ^^

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 3, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        – and the best-known variety is called King Edward, yet further accentuating its air of privilege.

        (Probably eaten by the same people who own King Charles spaniel d*gs…)


  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Good g*d. If this is true of the pumpkin what possible chance has the watermelon. Of course the privilege here is to the rich Donald Trump class because this is more about orange power than white power.

    By the way, how about that paying no taxes for 18 years? Think that might win some votes.

    • eric
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      I’m working on an improved breed. To be called the whitermelon. [/snark]

  14. dabertini
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    You read this and then wonder why people support trump?

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Darn gourds. I always knew they were up to no good.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink


  16. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    First they came for my air cannon, and I said nothing. Then they came to take away my trebuchet.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      I’ve been itching to build a giant trebuchet in my back yard for years. Don’t think the neighbors would care for it though.

  17. jeffery
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I saw some pumpkins in a local grocery store that were painted turquoise blue; could that be intended as “cultural appropriation” from the aliens in the “Avatar” movie?

  18. Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    How did the authors fail to work into their thesis the blatant white privilege of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” or the hidden racism of the songs by the alt-rockers group Smashing Pumpkins?

    • busterggi
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      My first thought also – consider the symbolism of Charlie Brown’s ghost costume and the misogyny of Lucy’s only being able to collect candy while wearing a witch mask.

  19. tubby
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    You know, I suddenly don’t care that my final project is an analysis of a security case study. It is now about how dildos perpetuate the patriarchy.

    • Filippo
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if Dan Quayle would have rather been asked by the omniscient reporter how to spell the plural of “dildo.”

  20. Monika
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    My brain suffered a “Blue Screen of Death”, it’s currently rebooting.

  21. grasshopper
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Oh. My. Gourd.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink


  22. Robert Bray
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    That one of the authors holds a named professorship at a major research university, yet publishes such nonsense, bodes ill for the reputation of her department and her institution.

  23. Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    As a fan of “Punkin Chunkin”, I know the goal is not to destroy pumpkins, but rather to chuck them as far as possible. If the pumpkin is destroyed during the launch, it is a failure. If the pumpkin is destroyed by the landing, it is a winner!

    • Flemur
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      The names of the launch devices are the racist, sexist and cisnormative signallings of a colonialist hegemony’s violent subversion of neurodiversity:
      Hormone Blaster
      Big 10 Inch
      Young Glory III
      2nd Amendment
      Old Glory
      Q36 Pumpkin Modulator
      Universal Soldier
      Under Pressure
      De Terminator
      Ultimate Warrior

      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        I really like the name “Q36 Pumpkin Modulator.” Of course, that merely confirms my guilt.

  24. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    The authors stole their title from a terrific novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.

  25. Damien McLeod
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Regressive Left Politically Correct Totalitarianism or how some Lefties became Righties??—Ah well, the fickle winds of human instability.

  26. Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m telling you, social geography is the slimy pond where this type of “scholarship” accumulates. It’s a shame too because the physical geographers do some great work, much of it actually scientific, but they are usually lumped into the same department as the social geographers.

    I feel obligated to bring this up as Dr. Powell and I share an institutional affiliation, and her home department, IRES, does some great work. This type of stuff is not at all representative of what comes out of there. I’d like to note though that Dr. Powell also holds an appointment in the Department of Geography at the Univ. of the Fraser Valley.

    Perhaps I should compose a paper on the privilege of white social geographers imposing their narratives on the authentic experiences of the perpetually marginalized for their own professional gain, and the irony of how this conflict ensures the perpetuation of the privilege-oppression paradigm so decried.

    • Gareth
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      Have to agree with this, as a former human geography student who quit after the second year (though mostly for depression and a mess of third culture kid issues).

      The module’s supervisor’s preferences influenced how much support you got for certain ideas. Not in a malicious way, but in having limited expertise themselves, it limits what you feel you can do if you lack self-confidence.

      Additionally alot of assignments seemed to be about describing some basic idea, finding examples and tie-ins from current events, and name dropping some big names from the reading list.

      Ended up doing a certificate of higher education in IT, which was actually more demanding work wise, than a ‘proper’ degree in human geography, even though its a lesser qualification.

      Certainly a window into why some STEM types regard the social sciences with contempt.
      Really wished I could have focused on Urban Geography with an emphasis on planning, transport and related policy.
      Or maybe I should have studied urban planning, meh, at 18 you don’t always understand your interests enough to make such decisions 😦

      • Posted October 2, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        This is interesting to hear. I’ve had the misfortune to have to work with several professional human geographers over the years, and I’ve read the “work” of many others. It is probably one of the three fields I hold in lowest esteem.

        The biggest problem with social/human geography is that the uninitiated consider it to be somewhat scientific (because of the name probably), but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The humanities have plenty of value, if for nothing else than they can promote an appreciation for beauty and creativity. But social/human geography seems to take just the worse elements of the humanities (e.g. “all narratives are equally valid”) and mixes it with its own brand of faux activism, couching everything in the Regressive Leftist paradigm.

        By the way, I hope you’ve found ways to treat your depression. I know what that’s like, and life can seem just not worth it without treatment. Our brains can operate to our detriment, just like any other organ.

        • Gareth
          Posted October 2, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

          There was some statistics and survey work, and the vague promise that you could do something with this. On one module about population development I even did a great project comparing population statistics from France and Thailand, which both stand out in comparison to their neighbours. Hard data, awesome graphs, and outliers, whats not to love hehe.

          But like you say, there is also a lot of woo. Much of which seemed in stark contrast to one of the early modules were we discussed the notion of a ‘cultural imagination’, we all have it, it differs, and it can cloud observations, with the hint, but no direct assertion that it should be contained when doing work. Some folk evidently prefer to let their cultural imaginations run riot.

          I never sought treatment, I became extremely socially withdrawn, and at some point got a job and that provided some structure in my life so I could function normally.
          I understand now that my depression was triggered by my ‘repatriation’, and that its apparently common amongst third culture kids. I’m now back in the country where I spent most of my teens, and everything is better. 🙂

  27. Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    since Elon Musk wants to name a ship the Heart of Gold in tribute to Hitchhikers Guide, we also should have one called the B Ark, a perfect place for utterly useless twits, like the authors of this ridiculous paper.

  28. Sastra
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    The authors deny the lived experience of People of Color who drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

    I now think there needs to be a website with that title — and pics. Fight the power.

  29. geckzilla
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone ever think to ask black, brown, or white people if they associate pumpkins with any sort of race at all? I mean, my list of things I associate with pumpkins would go like this:

    1. Fall
    2. Halloween & Thanksgiving
    3. Pie
    4. Various musings on the botanical origins of pumpkins
    5. A band called Smashing Pumpkins
    6. Actual smashing of pumpkins
    7. This video:

    • geckzilla
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      After writing this comment I asked a black man if pumpkins are a white people thing, and he says yeah, but he didn’t think of them like that until I asked. I guess it’s one of those implicit bias things.

      • Cindy
        Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Pumpkins are associated with suburbia. Suburbia is a white people thing.
        White culture is the dominant culture.
        The dominant white culture is oppressive.
        Pumpkins are symbols of white oppression.

        • Cindy
          Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          Oops the last one should read:

          Pumpkins are symbols of white supremacy.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted October 2, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

            I can think of things that other forms of squash are notoriously symbolic of…

            … but *pumpkins* ?


  30. Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I can only hope that the authors wrote and submitted that paper because of some silly bet, and the publisher launched a journal named GeoHumanities and publishing such stuff for the same reason.

  31. barn owl
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Put a cucurbit
    Put a cucurbit in your fall latte.
    See the man with the trebuchet
    His pumpkin now is on its way….

  32. Carey Haug
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    PSL is mostly about the spice not the pumpkin There is a product called Pumpkin Pie Spice, a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves etc. I think the authors missed an important point here, it’s about the Spice Trade which is long associated with White Patriarchy and oppression of Asians.

  33. zl84841g
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Are they out of their gourds? This movement needs to be squashed! 🙂

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 2, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Oh very good!

      Are we sure this isn’t all out of The Onion ?


  34. Mike
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Reading this site has been a happy part of my daily routine for a few years, but I’ve never commented until now. I just walked in from a long day on my family farm. This time of year we have a hayride to our pick-your-own pumpkin patch. I have to say, this “paper” is infuriating in so many ways, it would be boring for me to lay them all out. The thing that bothers me the most for some reason is the willingness to be an absolute buzzkill about something that’s supposed to be fun for everybody. Watching kids light up from the ride, screaming, “woah, look at all the pumpkins!!” is something my family looks forward to every year. And as someone who lives in a nexus of Trump supporters in upstate NY, I can offer an anecdotal report that this kind of regressive leftism does indeed sway people into the arms of the orange beast.

    Anyway, thanks for all of the good writing, Jerry.

  35. Posted October 2, 2016 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m not yet convinced that pumpkin is a symbol of privilege. But I see clear privilege in being able to make a living and be taken as a scientist for writing about racist pumpkins.

  36. Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I clicked to check out the “scholarly essay” that is the source of this commentary. I’d rather have spent my time watching videos of cows defecating. I spent a few years delving into postmodern philosophy. Let me repeat: PHILOSOPHY. Even there one could find some respect for intellectual heritage. I’ve since lost my tolerance for most of it, largely based on the method used in the insipid article here: Get your conclusion, which is invariably some form of critique, and then find various and sundry things that would otherwise have no business being together, but stick them together anyway, and bond them with neologisms and a prolix writing style: voila! You got yourself a fine piece of critical theory.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink


      Ah, the gig is up! (If only…)

  37. Rachel
    Posted October 3, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I live in Keene, and while I have no doubt that the rioters would have been in a lot more trouble had they been people of color, the rest of this article is completely ridiculous.

    Though if it makes the authors feel better, we’ve had our pumpkin privileges revoked. Which sucks, since a lot of our local shops and restaurants did good business during the festival.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      “…we’ve had our pumpkin privileges revoked.”

      Sorry…but that’s hilarious!

  38. Posted October 3, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    There are real concerns one *could* have with Starbucks and such, but worrying that pumpkins are “white” somehow … no.

  39. Dean Reimer
    Posted October 3, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m embarrassed for my alma mater. (UBC)

    • Posted October 5, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      That makes two of us. On the other hand, this sort of BS does seem to happen almost everywhere …

  40. tubby
    Posted October 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I went to the yuppie store because they have bulk dry foods, where I purchased mixed rice, mixed quinoa, and red lentils… all of which I’m sure can be labeled luxury foods eaten in leisure by white women. And then I committed a terrible deed: there, on the vegetable stand were pumpkins. Small pumpkins designated as ‘decorative’.

    I bought two.

    They’ll be delicious when baked and stuffed with rice, quinoa, and lentils. Such whiteness.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 3, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Your moment reminded me of the website, “What White People Like”. I think that was the name.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted October 3, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Stuff White People Like

      • tubby
        Posted October 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        I’m still not sure if I’m supposed to actually cook and eat things or if I’m supposed to simply consume them in an unbearable display of whiteness and femaleness.

  41. Posted October 8, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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  1. […] lot of Wente’s criticisms of this paper seem remarkably similar in content and tone to this blog commentary published a few days earlier. Nevertheless, Wente then proceeds to use the paper as a launching point for a criticism of “the […]

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