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Potter Politics

Political science professor publishes book on The Politics of Harry Potter

Posted: 01/15/2013
A new book that explores political undertones in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has been published by Bethany Barratt, associate professor of political science and an expert in human rights at Roosevelt University.

The Politics of Harry Potter examines the bases of authority in the wizarding world, including power, wealth, heredity, wisdom, meritocracy and the will of the people, all of which Barratt believes are rationales for establishing government in wizarding as well as in the real world.
Harry Potter is filled with references to politics,” said Barratt, who began as an armchair critic of the Rowling series, only to become completely engaged and engrossed once she began reading the Potter books more than a decade ago.

Early on in her reading, the Roosevelt professor, who directs the University’s Joseph Loundy Center for Human Rights, saw in the series clear outlines of a failing political system – much like our own - based on fear and divisiveness.

“Initially, I was concerned that I was projecting politics into the series,” said Barratt, who began to write about justice and punishment, including legal processes that exist in the wizardry world, as well as political themes like terror, intelligence, counterintelligence, race and tolerance.  Years later, Rowling acknowledged in interviews that the work was meant to be a plea for tolerance for any and all who are different in look, thought, ideas or actions.

“There is this sense about the work that it is right and kind and noble to advocate for the less powerful in society and that we should never assume that we know better than the disadvantaged do,” said Barratt, who compares Potter’s political system with the post-911 environment in which we live today.

“Harry Potter can be interpreted as a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when we base our politics and society on fear and divisiveness,” said Barratt. “In a sense, it is a work that is calling for us to consider shared community and shared interests, particularly if we are to have a healthy political system and society.”

Barratt’s book, now available in paperback through publisher Palgrave MacMillan at or, has been called “a detailed, imaginative exploration of how political authority is established, maintained and challenged on both sides of the wall that divides Muggle Society from Diagon Alley, and how war is waged and power is exercised by those who hold it in both worlds” by Nancy Reagin, professor of history at Pace University and the editor of Harry Potter and History.

“You go to the political novel to see your own predicament with fresh eyes. With Bethany Barratt’s help, Harry Potter emerges as a crafty introduction to the lore of politics,” added Iver B. Neumann, co-editor of Harry Potter and International Relations.

For more information, contact Laura Janota at or 312-341-3511 or Bethany Barratt at