Academic Absurdity of the Week, Pumpkin Spice Edition

I am preparing a full-scale, end-of-the-world beat down on the abomination of pumpkin spice for an upcoming Week in Pictures, but I can’t help but wonder whether I’ve been trumped (heh) by this recent “scholarly” article in the journal GeoHumanities:

The Perilous Whiteness of Pumpkins

Lisa Jordan Powell & Elizabeth S.D. Engelhardt


This article examines the symbolic whiteness associated with pumpkins in the contemporary United States. 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.

Unlike many such academic articles, you can read the entirety of this one for free online, but put away sharp objects first so you don’t poke out your eyes by the end. You’ll find gems of critical thinking such as this:

Whiteness associated with pumpkins marks who resides where on the spectrum of U.S. social power. . . 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.

So I guess Smashing Pumpkins was some kind of white-supremacist band? Good to know. Trump could use some better rally music. Alt-rock for the alt-right?

(And yes, for the record I’m totally open to the proposition that this article is a well-played hoax, another Sokal-like trolling. But how can you tell the difference any more between a hoax and a real academic article?)

JOHN adds: Yeah, this is really stupid. On the other hand, if someone wrote an article explaining what the heck is the deal with pumpkin in beer, I would like to read it.

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