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By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 19, 2003 11:21 AM
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Mickey Mouse took a backseat to a much younger pop culture hero this weekend at Florida’s Walt Disney World, where about 1,000 fans of the teen wizard gathered for Nimbus 2003, the first international Harry Potter convention, reports the Associated Press.

The 2,715 pages of J.K. Rowling’s five books — including the latest, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” — inspired such workshops as “It’s Not Easy Being Hermione: Harry Potter and the Paradox of Girl Power”; “Harry Potter and Stoic Virtue”; and even “Jewish Perspectives on Harry Potter.”

While the religious breakdown on the guest roster wasn’t made available, including how many of them were Muggles, the AP does note that 90 percent of the attendees were women.

“I think some men are afraid to be labeled, in part because of the Trekkie-nerdy phenomenon,” said John Kusalavage, 58, a retired doctor and Harry Potter fan who lives in Aiken, S.C. “But if they knew there were so many women here, they’d think again.”

According to the official Harry Potter Web site, one of the speakers was Diana Patterson, an English and publishing teacher from Mount Royal College, who delivered a talk titled, ” Technology Meets Magic” for which she wore a full witch costume, complete with a pointy hat.

“Basically, my talk investigates the magical objects in Harry Potter,” Patterson said. “They aren’t praying to the gods to use magic, it is simply a type of technology they use.”

Other speakers from points as distant as the Philippines discussed such subjects as justice in the wizarding world, gender roles in the books, comparisons of Potter books to other fantasy literature and the history of Potter fandom, said the Web site.

“For a lot of academics, it’s looking at the greater themes in the books, and what (Rowling is) saying about gender relations, labor and class issues in modern Britain,” said Penny Linsenmayer, a Houston lawyer and Nimbus 2003 organizer.