MIT: Independent Activities Period: IAP

IAP 2015 Activities by Sponsor - Political Science

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Harry Potter, World War II & and War on Terror

Amanda Rothschild, PhD Student Political Science

Enrollment: Unlimited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/14
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

Are the Harry Potter books just a fictional account of a fantastical wizarding world, or do the books offer a more nuanced political commentary on current and past international events? This course explores the political implications of the Harry Potter series, with a particular focus on parallels to World War II and the War on Terror. Topics explored include the sorting process, minority persecution, resistance movements, historical parallels to Death Eaters, and similarities between violence in the Harry Potter series and terrorism today. All students are welcome, but ideally students would have read all seven books or be familiar with the films. Wizarding robes are optional, but encouraged.

Sponsor(s): Political Science
Contact: Amanda Rothschild,

The Sorting & the Series, Moral Courage

Add to Calendar Jan/27 Tue 05:45PM-07:15PM E53-482

The series begins & ends with significant emphasis on the sorting process. How does Rowling define courage? What does Dumbledore mean when he says that we must choose between what is right and what is easy? Why do readers assume Hufflepuffs are not as capable as others? Why is ambition the quality associated with the darkest house and what are the implications of that association?

Amanda Rothschild - PhD Student Political Science

Persecuted Minorities, WWII & Holocaust

Add to Calendar Jan/28 Wed 05:45PM-07:15PM E53-482

We discuss parallels between Muggle-borns & other persecuted minorities with a focus on the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. Topics include the Muggle-born registry, racial purity in the series, Grindelwald and the greater good, racially derogatory terminology in the series, Snatchers and the Gestapo, Death Eaters and the Nazi Party, the treatment of House-elves, discrimination against Werewolves.

Amanda Rothschild - PhD Student Political Science

Death Eaters, Terrorism, War on Terror

Add to Calendar Jan/29 Thu 05:45PM-07:15PM E53-482

Are the Death Eaters axioms similar to terrorist organizations? How does the Ministry of Magics response to the return of Lord Voldemort, parallel the response of governments to terrorist attacks? What does it mean to value courage, fairness, wit, or ambition most? Is it correct that we are defined not by our abilities, but by our choices? How do we apply this lesson to our life at MIT and beyond?

Amanda Rothschild - PhD Student Political Science

How Baseball, Poker, and Fermat Teach Us the Best Way to Elect the President.

Alan Natapoff, Research Scientist

Add to Calendar Jan/21 Wed 04:00PM-05:30PM 37-212

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

A democratic voting system must pursue unanimous consent to the president it elects.  At presidential scale, simple majority voting will always be insensitive to the consent of a minority:  When tried it has failed consistently over time, sometimes catastrophically.  The Electoral College, modeled on the British Parliamentary system, has succeeded for centuries:  It pursues unanimous consent by giving each voter large fair power over the outcome.   To correct its failure in poorly-contested states we should give Electoral votes in proportion to votes cast, not to census population:  A voter can then punish a dominant candidate she rejects with a blank ballot; the newly-powerful votes cast represent consent to the outcome.  We calculate voting power, trace its paradoxes and oddities, examine its relationship to the design of the rules of baseball, and show how Fermat’s Rule would have resolved Florida’s deadlock in 2000—and changed its outcome.

Sponsor(s): Political Science
Contact: Alan Natapoff, 37-147, 617 253-7757, NATAPOFF@MIT.EDU