Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Bertacco, Simona

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Owen, David

Committee Member

Owen, David

Committee Member

Johmann, Michael

Committee Member

Hall, Ann

Author's Keywords

board games; white privilege; whiteness; racism; ethnocentrism; community


This dissertation focuses on the design choices in the modern board game and argues that game designs emerge from and constitute dominant ideologies that endorse and secure white male superiority. This dissertation utilizes Michel Foucault’s archaeological method to “unearth” ideologies that cultural artifacts both emerge from and constitute. The project considers three central questions: 1) How does the locus of production and consumption impact the dominant ideology underlying game design? 2) How do design choices secure and constitute an ideology of white male dominance? 3) What impact does the normalization of white dominance have upon the broader community? This dissertation is organized around different analytical frameworks with each chapter focusing on one of these frameworks through several case studies. Chapter one introduces readers to the history of the modern board game from World War II to the present and offers a rubric for understanding the interrelated elements in game design. Chapter two focuses on how board games can present as discursive artifacts that reveal the ideological premises they emerge from and constitute. Chapter three inspects how board games reveal a dominant Eurocentrism that is demonstrated and shaped by geographical representation. Chapter four analyzes the role of racial representation for nonwhite characters and bodies to show a proclivity toward the diminished importance and debasement of nonwhite roles. Chapter five looks at the normalization and invisibility of white racial politics that maintains a power disequilibrium through space and representation. Chapter six aligns the endorsements of white dominance implied by game design with exclusionary community practices that secure barriers to play. Collectively, the privileging performances of board games frustrate the industry’s aims to amass a wider and more diverse population of players.